Access 8878: Web Accessibility - Code of Practice

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Web Guidelines

An overview of the guidelines available to help developers create accessible web products.

WCAG 2.0

In December 2008, the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) published a set of guidelines that were 4 years in the making. WCAG 2.0 replaced the long-standing WCAG 1.0 guidelines that were published in 1999.

The guidelines are quite comprehensive and are an excellent place to start with accessibility. When followed in tandem with user experience testing, a good accessible web product can be confidently developed.

The guidelines cover things such as providing alternative text for images and ensuring access for people using keyboard-only controls or assistive technologies such as screen readers ( description of screen readers on Wikipedia (this link will open in a new browser window))

There are 3 levels of conformity to the guidelines which are referred to as A, AA, and AAA that represent different levels of access and usability.

These guidelines need to be followed in order to make content accessible to end users and deciding to what extent the guidelines will be adhered to is a part of the BS 8878 process.

ATAG

The Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines (ATAG) also created by WAI help developers build authoring tools that are accessible to disabled users, and that output accessible content.

UAAG

User Agent Accessibility Guidelines (UAAG), guide the accessible development of browsers and assistive technologies that are used to view web-pages. Conformance to UAAG helps to ensure that user agents are compatible with Assistive technologies.

Guidelines for Rich Internet Applications (RIAs)

Rich Internet Applications are those types of applications found on the web that deliver a richer experience than is offered by HTML alone. RIAs typically use HTML in combination with other web technologies such as JavaScript, Asynchronous JavaScript and XML (AJAX), Flash or Silverlight.

The RIA experience for the user tends to be more like a desktop application.

Because of the way that information is served (dynamic rather than static) and the technologies used, RIAs present specific challenges. WCAG 2.0 guidelines have been written with RIA in mind. The criteria for conformance applies to RIAs as much as they do to HTML content.

You can get a head start on accessible RIA by using components that have been designed to be accessible:

WAI also publish guidance on accessible RIA development:

Non-British guidelines (e.g. Section 508)

There are some other guidelines such as Section 508 (this link will open in a new browser window) in the states that products may be developed to. Note that these guidelines typically require a lower level of conformance than more recent guidelines such as WCAG 2.0.

Section 508 is currently being updated and slated for release in 2011.

Access 8878 is the leading resource for BS 8878

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