Thursday, 3 June 2010

BSI to iPad developers: thou shalt serve the disabled

The Register reports:
A draft British Standard on web accessibility warns organisations to consider how easily disabled users can access their websites on mobile phones, tablets and TVs. Ignoring their needs could breach BS 8878 and the Equality Act, it says.

Standards body BSI has launched a second consultation on 'BS 8878 Web Accessibility – Code of Practice'. It is a non-technical standard that explains how organisations should create policies and production processes to identify and remove barriers that result in websites excluding disabled and elderly people.

A first draft of the Standard was issued in December 2008 and attracted what BSI described as "an unprecedented amount of interest." That draft has been extensively restructured, according to BSI. The latest draft addresses new issues including user-personalisation and dealing with user complaints.

A nine-page annex to the Standard explains the evolving legal duties for websites to be accessible to disabled users. It addresses the Equality Act, which is due to come into force across Great Britain from October, replacing the existing Disability Discrimination Act (DDA). It also addresses the DDA, which will remain in force in Northern Ireland.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: nobody has a right to be served.

Developers should decide for themselves whether to invest additional effort to attract the business of "disabled and elderly people".

For the state to decree that these people must be served, regardless of the cost, and regardless of the interests of the developers, is tantamount to slavery.

Forced labour is always and everywhere immoral, but it is especially offensive when the slaves are forced to provide luxury goods, like iPad-optimised websites (emphasis mine):

The Standard acknowledges that websites, which it refers to as "web products," are increasingly accessed on devices other than desktop computers. But it advises that other devices can introduce challenges for users with disabilities.

"For example, users might wish to access web products via mobile phones, internet tablets, games consoles or televisions," it says. "However, some web products might not be accessible to disabled users of these devices."

There are lots of things I might wish for, but I would never suggest that other people should be compelled to serve my wishes.

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