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2003: Accessibility - a Publisher's Perspective (


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Talk given by Jonathan Hassell - Editor of Standards & Guidelines for BBC New Media - at Association of Online Publishers accessibility event in 2003. …

Talk given by Jonathan Hassell - Editor of Standards & Guidelines for BBC New Media - at Association of Online Publishers accessibility event in 2003.

Covers: motivations of organisations to be interested in accessibility; initial research into accessibility of by System Concepts; examples for where WAI WCAG 1.0 standards didn't do enough to help users (tables) or didn't understand with the needs of broadcasters (video subtitling); recommendations to embed accessibility in culture by educating and motivating production staff.

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  • 1. Accessibility – a publisher ’ s perspective ( Jonathan Hassell Editor of Standards & Guidelines BBC New Media 29/5/03 v1.02
  • 2. What I ’ ll be talking about
    • Motivations for examining the accessibility of
    • How we approached the issue - research we undertook to find out how accessible our website is
    • Findings from research
    • Issues for broadcasters – WAI & A/V
    • What we ’re doing to improve accessibility of
    • Some examples
  • 3. Motivations for examining accessibility of
    • BBCi commitment to making its output as accessible as possible to all audiences to fulfil its public service mandate and to meet its requirements under the Disability Discrimination Act
    • To assess/update existing accessibility features (Betsie, alt-tags etc.)
    • EU communication for Government websites to conform to WAI, Level 1
    • 2003 is European Year of People with Disabilities
    • (and now, of course, there ’s the DRC Formal Investigation into Accessibility)
    • Better accessibility means better usability
  • 4. Let ’ s do some research
    • Desire to unify pockets of existing expertise within BBC New Media
    • Desire to understand issues surrounding accessibility of
      • How (consistently) good do we think our website is?
    • Research Focus:
      • Primary focus on accessibility for real audiences at home/office – usability testing
      • Secondary focus on identifying good practice based on previously uncoordinated knowledge inside and outside the BBC – literature reviews etc.
      • Tertiary focus on what other broadcasters or market leaders are doing
  • 5. Process
    • We pulled together a team:
      • Gee Kay Wong - BBC Usability Lab
      • Christina Nsamba - BBC New Media project manager
    • We defined areas of disability/impairment:
      • Visual – screen magnifier to screenreader
      • Hearing – incl. BSL as first language
      • Motor – use of grid navigation systems
      • Cognitive – dyslexia and learning impairments
    • We hired a decent independent company to do the research:
      • Systems Concepts Ltd
    • and put everyone working on the project through BBC Disability Awareness training
  • 6. Findings (1)
    • Accessibility Study of BBCi – report and video of usability testing
    • Avail from:
  • 7. Findings (2)
    • is generally accessible with some bits better than others (results from usability tests) – need more consistency of approach
    • is “medium compliance” for accessibility (results from accessibility checklist)
      • it isn ’t most accessible site, it’s not the worst
      • Sites that need users to enter information or need to sell them stuff are generally better
    • You can ’t please everyone all the time - there isn’t one set of best practices that span the range of issues for different disabilities
    • Improvements should be made by specific user-testing
  • 8. Findings (3)
    • Accessibility is as much about content and language as it is about technical accessibility.
    • Try not to marginalise audiences
      • some BBC initiatives, such as “Text only” versions (Betsie), are disliked by the audiences they aim to serve.
      • audiences would prefer not to have a “downgraded” version.
  • 9. Recommendations of study
    • BBC needs to incorporate accessibility thinking into its commissioning and production culture. We need to make use of expertise better, earlier and more systematically.
    • should conform to WAI standards, level 1
    • We should deal with content issues. e.g. use simple language
    • We should test accessibility with real users, and provide accessibility instructions
    • About 50 specific detailed recommendations across editorial, design and technical areas
  • 10. Issues for Broadcasters – WAI and A/V
    • WAI level 1 does not always fit ideally with needs of broadcasters, but the BBC will adhere when possible
    • The main problem is with A/V content requiring subtitling
      • For areas such as recorded video, we ’re developing with BBC R&D, a system for subtitling.
      • For live A/V material, we will not be adhering to WAI
    • Another problem is that our websites need to be compatible with browsers pre- WAI standards (those without CSS etc.) to support widest possible audience
  • 11. Steps to improve accessibility of
    • Educate & motivate - change the culture:
      • Developing NM Accessibility Awareness training course for New Media production staff – begins June/July 2003, includes demonstrations of use of screenreaders, grid navigation etc.
      • Produced initial checklist to ensure staff are aware of the issues
    • Update our standards:
      • Production staff and panel of advisors (including a user to rep each impairment) sharing their experiences and creating new standards via pan-BBC Working Group
      • WG examining each recommendation from study and reviewing our standards to strive to comply – accessibility not ghettoised into one standard, but pervading all affected standards
    • Be part of wider industry accessibility initiatives:
      • Share what we have: publish research to external audiences
      • Work with and learn from others (RNIB etc.): ask external experts
  • 12. Examples from standards improvement (1)
    • tables…
      • WAI level 1 standards don ’t always produce “better tables” for browsing thru JAWS screenreader
      • It ’s more effective to be aware of one linear, left to right, top to bottom considerations
      • example from BBC weather site (before – being updated in next iteration)
  • 13. Examples from standards improvement (2)
    • accessibility support needs to come from the top, and be cross-disciplinary
    • eg. vocabulary
      • should you use Plain English or the language of your audience?
    • eg. Infoglut - how much should you put on a page…?
      • is this too much?
      • affects users with dyslexia, visual & motor impairments
      • can impact/depend on design of page, visual definition of sections, contrast, editorial proposition etc.
  • 14. e: t: @jonhassell w: Contact me