New guidelines developed by the Disability Rights Commission (DRC) offer sound advice on commissioning accessible websites, but may be asking too much of website owners. It is now the role of Quality Assurance professionals to support the guidelines by offering practical help in preventing discrimination online.

What is PAS 78?

Disabled internet users have largely been overlooked in the past; a 2004 survey by the Disability Rights Commission (DRC) showed that 81% of UK websites failed to meet accessibility standards. In an effort to counter this exclusion the DRC in association with the British Standards Institution (BSI) last week produced a “Guide to Good Practice in Commissioning Accessible Websites” also known as PAS 78.

Publicly Available Specification (PAS 78) is a new guide for those commissioning a website on the conventions and processes that ensure accessibility for the disabled. The guide makes it clear that the website commissioner is solely responsible for accessibility, in accordance with the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) standards and the Disability Discrimination Act 1996.

The guidelines, if adopted on a large scale, will lead to a more accessible, more inclusive and more usable internet. Sites that have been optimised for accessibility are also much more user friendly and often more readable by search engines, making for higher search rankings.

The only drawback with PAS 78 is that some of the processes recommended could be seen as too much of an inconvenience to anyone commissioning a website. How many online start-up entrepreneurs for example, would easily be able to oversee the development of a test plan for usability? It is here that independent quality assurance advice will prove to be invaluable.

Rosie Sherry of DrivenQA, a software and web testing company in Brighton has this to say about the new guidelines:

“Accessibility testing is not a simple process and should only be carried out by professionals to ensure guidelines are upheld. QA professionals have a responsibility to be involved from the beginning of the development process to help site owners avoid discrimination.”

PAS 78 identifies the following key benefits of an accessible website

• Accessibility means exposure to broader audiences, and potentially an extra £80 billion in spending power.

• Websites optimised for accessibility are also more usable for non-disabled users, making it easier for them to become customers.

• Where World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) accessibility guidelines are upheld, sites are more easily viewed on handheld, mobile phone and interactive TV devices.

• Accessible content has a much higher visibility for search engines, which boosts search engine rankings.

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www.drivenqa.com

DrivenQA

DrivenQA has been certified by the biggest names in software and develops partnerships to deliver the best QA services to its clients.

Based in Brighton and part of Driven Systems [www.getdriven.com], DrivenQA is headed by Rosie Sherry and her core team.

For more information visit www.drivenqa.com

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Contact: Rosie Sherry on +44 (0) 8450 580 546
:+44 (0) 77 309 525 37 : rosie.sherry@getdriven.com

Published on: 12:00AM on 23rd March 2006