OZeWAI 2013: Accessibility is Primarily About People and Processes, Not Digital Resources!

Title: Accessibility is Primarily About People and Processes, Not Digital Resources!

Event details: OZeWAI 2013 conference, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia

Date and time: 16.00-16.45 (UTC/GMT +10 hours) on Friday 29 November 2013 (see the conference programme).


Standardisation work for web accessibility has focused primarily on conformance of digital resources with a series of checkpoints. But as Cooper et al have argued  “web accessibility is not an intrinsic characteristic of a digital resource but is determined by complex political, social and other contextual factors, as well as technical aspects which are the focus of WAI standardisation activities. It can therefore be inappropriate to develop legislation or focus on metrics only associated with properties of the resource.” [1].

This talk reviews the approaches which have been developed by accessibility researchers and practitioners in the UK since 2005 and complementary standardization work which resulted in the BS 8878 Code of Practice for Web Accessibility.

1 A Challenge to Web Accessibility Metrics and Guidelines: Putting People and Processes First, Cooper, M., Sloan, D., Kelly, B. and Lewthwaite, S. W4A 2012, 16-17 April 2012. DOI: 10.1145/2207016.2207028

Note: Delivered as an invited online contribution to the OZWai 2013 conference.

Speaker biographical details:

Brian Kelly has published peer-reviewed papers on Web accessibility since 2004. He has been the lead author for a series of papers which have argued that the focus on developed on universal standards for Web resources has been flawed; rather there is a need to recognise the importance of the user context and intended purpose of the Web product. There is also a need to appreciate that a desire to ensure that Web services and resources are universally accessibility to everyone can be misguided, leading to a failure to deploy services which are ‘good enough’.

This focus on ‘reasonable measures’ led to the development of a holistic approach to web accessibility, with a focus on the accessibility of the intended purpose of the web service, rather than web resources themselves. This move away from conformance of digital resources with documented best practices led to a realisation of the need for systematic ways of documenting appropriate processes in the development and deployment of accessibility products. The work was complemented in the UK with the development of the BS 8878, a process-led code of practice for web accessibility which provides a national standard which is conformant with the holistic approach.

Brian worked at UKOLN, University of Bath from 1996 to July 2013. He is now the Innovation Advocate at Cetis, University of Bolton where he  will continue to promote innovative approaches to use of IT in higher and further education.


The slides, with accompanying audio, are available on Slideshare and embedded below. [Note that Slideshare subsequently withdrew their ‘Slidecast’ facility so the audio is no longer embedded with the slides.]

Note that an additional copy of the slides is available on the Present.me service: