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BS 8878 and the Holistic Approaches to Web Accessibility

BS 8878 and the Holistic Approaches to Web Accessibility

Brian Kelly gave a talk on "BS 8878 and the Holistic Approaches to Web Accessibility" at a JISC CETIS Accessibility SIG meeting which was held at the BSI Headquarters, 389 Chiswick High Road, Chiswick, London on 28th February 2011. The talk was given from 14.15-14.40.

The JISC CETIS Accessibility SIG meeting was a preliminary meeting to a joint ISO SWG-A (Special Working Group Accessibility)/BSI week-long event which took place from 29th February.

Further Information


The Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) developed an approach to enhance access to Web resources for people with disabilities which included the WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) which were launched in May 1999. The approaches developed by WAI have had a significant impact around the world with WCAG guidelines often providing the basis for the development of accessible Web sites which is often embedded in various national guidelines.

Although there has been widespread acceptance of the WAI guidelines limitations in this approach were identified by staff at the JISC-funded UKOLN and TechDis service in the context of Web-based e-learning resources. A paper on "Developing A Holistic Approach For E-Learning Accessibility" published in 2004 formed the basis of work which has developed an approach to Web accessibility which focuses on the accessibility of the purposes of a Web-based service rather than of the Web resources themselves and which recognises that a one-size fits all approach can be counter-productive.

The initial paper led to further work in the development of the holistic approach by accessibility researchers and practitioners in the UK and Australia. This development work was informed by two Accessibility Summit meetings held at JISC TechDis in 2004 and 2006 which provided input into the approaches from representatives of disability organisations.

Alongside the work being carried out in the higher education community, parallel activities were taking place to document best practices which led to the publication of the "PAS 78: Guide to good practice in commissioning accessible websites" (PDF format) in 2006 and the BS 8878: Web Accessibility Code of Practice which was published in December 2010.

The user-focussed and pragmatic approaches taken in BS 8878 are complementary to the holistic approaches described above. The BS 8878 emphasises the importance of documentation and policies which are areas which have been addressed in papers on holistic accessibility. There therefore appear to be opportunities for use of the holistic approach in implementation of BS 8878.

In this talk Brian Kelly, who has led the development of the holistic approach since 2004, will review this work and describe ways in which it could be applied in the context of BS 8878.

Biographical Details

Brian Kelly is based at UKOLN, a national centre of expertise in digital information management located at the University of Bath. In his role as UK Web Focus, Brian provide advice and support on innovative Web developments, standards and best practices to the UK higher education sector.

Brian's work has included advice on approaches to the development of accessible Web sites. Brian attended the launch meeting of the WAI in 2007 and initially promoted use of WCAG by Web developers. However the evidence of the limitations of the WAI approach led to joint work with the JISC TechDis organisation to explore ways in which the WAI guidelines could be implemented in a appropriate and achievable way in the context of the development of e-learning resources. Further work with the wider Web accessibility practitioner and research community led to developments of this approach in a wider context, including use in the provision of cultural heritage Web services and institutional repositories.

Brian's papers on accessibility are available online and can be accessed from the University of Bath institutional repository. In addition the UK Web Focus blog has an Accessibility category which provides access to blog posts in this area.


BS 8878 and the Holistic Approaches to Web Accessibility
[MS PowerPoint 97/2000 format] - [PDF format]

Note that a video of the talk is available on YouTube and embedded below.

Also note that a caption file created by YouTube is also available. See the blog post about automated captioning.