BS8878 In a Nutshell

First authored 22 May 2013.

This is a brief introduction to BS8878, which is a very important tool for ensuring that websites and other digital systems are accessible to all. A more complete summary of BS8878 and how to use it is available for download below.

What is BS8878?

BS8878 came into force 30 November 2010. It was created by BSI technical committee IST 45 web accessibility which included AbilityNet. It replaced PAS78 which came out in 1996 and which has now been withdrawn by BSI.

BS7888 is not a radical departure from PAS78 (1996) more of an update to incorporate the latest accessibility best practice and guidelines – for example PAS78 references WCAG 1.0 and BS8878 references WCAG 2.0.

It's about putting policies and procedures in place within an organisation that to make websites and other ‘web products’ accessible by considering accessibility at all stages of the development process. It is not another WCAG - it is a set of guidelines which include guidance on how to achieve WCAG2.0.

BS8878 is about disabled people and older people

The standard does not just cover the 11 million people with disabilities in the UK it also makes explicit reference to older people over 60 as a group that need accessible websites because of age related conditions related to loss of vision, hearing and mobility. 

BS8878 makes the case for accessibility

The standard includes the case for accessibility covering the three main drivers:

  • Legal - Equality Act 2010
  • Commercial reasons - 11 million disabled people and their spending power and the
  • 12 million people of state pension age - not necessary disabled but age related conditions
  • Ethical reasons - bridge the digital divide

BS8878 covers all 'web products'

The standard uses the term ‘Web product’ to cover a wider range than just websites. For example it covers web-services, or web-based workplace application such as web-based email, virtual learning environments (training and education) and Rich Internet Applications (RIA) such as Flash and Silverlight. It also covers different platforms, not only computer but mobile as well as aw well as tablets and televisions.

Though not explicitly covered - also could be used to apply to phone applications such as iPhone and android apps. There is however an exception; the Standard does not cover software accessibility a separate BSI standard - BS EN ISO 9241-171) already covers this.

BS8878 is a code of practice and compliance

BS8878 is a code of practice not a specification which means it gives guidance and recommendations rather than technical specs. However it is still possible to comply with the BS8878 by implementing all of the recommendations in the standard and documenting the decision making process. If there are any recommendations that cannot be met this needs to be documented and justified.

An organisation can claim compliance based on ‘self assessment’ or can have an assessment carried out an independent organisation such as AbilityNet.

What BS8878 covers in more detail

BS8878 gives specific guidance on:

  • how organisations should ensure accessibility is considered in their web strategy by creating an organisational web accessibility policy
  • how to embed the consideration of accessibility decisions through the entire process of producing web products,
  • how to consider the impact of the purpose of the product, its target audience and their needs,
  • how to best use existing web accessibility guidelines such as WCAG 2.0
  • how to ensure that web products procured rather than created are accessible
  • how to assure web accessibility throughout a web product’s lifecycle,
  • how to communicate about accessibility by creating an accessibility statement

Who is BS7888 for?

BS 8878 is relevant to all types of organisation. These include: public and private companies, non-profit organisations, government departments, local councils, public sector organisations and academic institutions.

  • whoever is ultimately responsible for the policies covering web within an organisation
  • people responsible for promoting and supporting equality and inclusion initiatives within an organisation
  • procurement managers
  • web production teams
  • people with responsibility for creating or shaping online content
  • people who create web production, testing or validation tools; and
  • People who write and deliver training courses in web production, design or coding.

Want to know more?

BS8878: A Summary

A more complete summary of BS8878 and how to use it is available for download below

BS 8878 Companion Guide

A comprehensive How To Guide about implementing BS8878 is available to purchase from our Best Practice Guideline Library – please contact our sales team to request details of costs and what it covers

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