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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.

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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2003: Accessibility - a Publisher's Perspective (

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