The first accessibility accreditation scheme for suppliers of Web design services is to launch early next year. The scheme has been developed by the recently formed accessibility and usability working group of the British Web Design and Marketing Association (BWDMA). The accreditation will enable the digital industry to identify qualified suppliers in what is a legal requirement for all companies on the Web.
According to BWDMA founder Patrick White: “There is a low level of awareness concerning Web accessibility, even though it is the law. The obligation for websites to comply with current legislation (such as the Disability Discrimination Act) lies with the owner, not the creator.
White adds: “Those companies seeking Web designers with the right skills are discovering that not enough suppliers can combine advanced technical functionality with accessibility. The BWDMA accreditation scheme will resolve that situation, provide a list of accredited suppliers and create a stimulus for firms to gain the required expertise.”
The BWDMA intends that the accreditation scheme will promote awareness of, and support compliance with, the Disability Discrimination Act. It will include educational elements, a continuous self-assessment facility and a formal accreditation process.
The scheme will verify that suppliers can design sites to comply with the European Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI). The working group has also attracted support of the US-based International Center for Disability Resources on the Internet (ICDRI). The intention is that accreditation will include key elements from the American Web access initiative, Rule 508, and create a scheme that benchmarks international accessibility standards.
Simon Norris, a member of the BWDMA working group and managing director of Web agency Nomensa, says the accreditation scheme is a major step forward. “While the legal obligation is a key driver in this initiative, there is a moral obligation as well as a commercial benefit to developing accessible sites. Having this accreditation will allow Web service organisations to concentrate on promoting the real benefits of accessibility, such as gaining a wider audience and improving profitability.”
White gives a further reason as to why an accreditation scheme is essential for the industry: “The Government has introduced a law with which it cannot yet comply itself. Owning about 2,500 central and local government websites, it is one of the world’s largest purchasers of Web technologies, yet only a fraction of its sites are accessible to a sufficient standard. It needs assured procurement paths, which the accreditation scheme will deliver. There are very sound reasons for the Government to join, endorse and support this industry initiative.”
The scheme is scheduled for introduction early next year. It will feature measurement of completed projects against key performance indicators using a combination of automated testing and human assessment.
The BWDMA working group will hold its next meeting in December and continues to seek contributions from across the digital industry. Interested parties can join by visiting www.bwdma.com.