A computer is like an Old Testament god - lots of rules and no mercy.
PAS 78 To Become Full Standard
Released in March 2006, Publicly Available Specification (PAS) 78 – “Guide to good practice in commissioning accessible websites” – was developed in order to tackle some of the confusion surrounding web accessibility. It is not a replacement for the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) but is a non-technical document which aims to assist site owners and managers by describing the role of standards and user testing within site development.
But, although developed by the British Standards Institute (BSi), a PAS is not a standard. It is a sponsored piece of work that can be made available quickly to suit the market need of the developers and users of a product, process or service. In comparison, a full standard requires several more stages of development and a full consensus before it can be published. However, a PAS – which must be reviewed every two years – can be the first step in the creation of a formal standard.
PAS 78 – originally sponsored by the Disability Rights Commission (DRC) – is approaching its first review date and the decision has been taken to develop it into a formal British Standard. Although the new standard will build on PAS 78, it is hoped that the final standard will be cover the Web 2.0 services that were simply not around when work on the PAS first began – such as social networking and rich internet applications. E-commerce is also expected to come under scrutiny.
The completed standard will be owned by BSi (a commercial organisation ) so there will be a price attached to it. PAS 78, initially priced at £30, is currently freely available thanks to the purchase of a licence for open publication by the DRC (now the Equality and Human Rights Commission). But, given that it will be aimed at a specialised, professional, audience, the associated price tag is not expected to be a major issue. Additionally, more general, standard-related, materials may be freely available, (e.g. additional documentation or training).
The current aim is to publish the new standard within a year – possibly within the first quarter of 2009. Although the standard’s development will require collaboration and consultation, Julie Howell, chair elect of the new technical committee, is determined that to ensure that it be well-managed and does not suffer from the same kind of endless debate that has dogged publication of WCAG 2.0. She wants to see change – and quickly.
So it looks like we may all be living in interesting times soon…