Future Media Standards & Guidelines

Accessibility Guidelines v1.5 (superseded)

1. Statement of commitment

1.1. The BBC is committed to making its output as accessible as possible to all audiences (including those with visual, hearing, cognitive or motor impairments) to fulfil its public service mandate and to meet its statutory obligations defined by the Disability Discrimination Act.

1.2. Unless it can be shown to be technically or practically impossible, all content MUST be made accessible.

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2. Scope

2.1. These standards relate to all public facing BBC websites.

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3. Editorial content

3.1. You MUST provide an accessible alternative to any potentially inaccessible content, including all plug-in content, UNLESS this can be proven to be technically or practically impossible.

3.1.1. An accessible alternative is defined as one that meets the information, educational and entertainment objectives of the original content.

3.1.2. If your content relies on Flash or other plug-ins, you MUST still provide an HTML alternative that does not rely on Flash, other plug-ins or JavaScript. See Production and Delivery of Plug-in Content Standards and Flash Accessibility Standards.

3.1.3. All content and features delivered using JavaScript MUST be accessible with JavaScript switched off - see JavaScript Standards.

3.2. All accessible alternative content MUST be updated in line with and at the same time as the original content.

3.3. You SHOULD divide large blocks of information into manageable chunks e.g. use short paragraphs.

3.4. Lines SHOULD NOT be longer than 70 characters (for the browser default font setting) including the spaces in between words, except where the language of the website is:

  • Arabic, German, Serbian, Russian, Persian, Urdu, Pashto, Hindi, Bengali, Sinhala, Chinese (simplified and traditional), Welsh, Polish, Ukrainian, Greek, Macedonian, Bulgarian, or Dutch.
  • Or the line is a URL or code fragment.

3.5. You MUST provide an appropriate text equivalent for each non-text element of the core content. See the Textual Equivalents Standards.

3.6. You SHOULD specify the expansion of each abbreviation or acronym in a document where it first occurs.

3.7. All pages MUST use heading elements. See Semantic Mark-up Standard.

3.8. You SHOULD use HTML text rather than images wherever possible.

3.9. When using buttons, such as in forms, you MUST use HTML text buttons rather than images UNLESS you have an existing exemption for use of a non-standard font or where the button is a recognised icon.

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4. Language/style

4.1. You SHOULD use plain language and avoid jargon.

4.2. Where the language in the document changes (e.g. from English to Welsh), you MUST indicate this with a tag containing a Lang attribute.

4.3. All text of more than two lines MUST be left aligned (if published language is naturally ranged left e.g. English), except for tabular data and where the formatting is integral to the meaning of the text, e.g. poetry.

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5. Editorial images

5.1. Editorial content MUST make sense without reference to images or diagrams, UNLESS the subject matter can only be displayed via images (e.g. a 'spot the difference' game).

5.2. Instructional images SHOULD make sense without text e.g. a user must be able to follow a set of diagrammatical instructions without the help of a text explanation.

5.3. You MAY support instructions with diagrams.

5.4. Where appropriate, you SHOULD use pictures and symbols in addition to text.

5.5. You SHOULD support your "calls to action" with icons.

5.6. You MUST NOT use ASCII art.

5.7. You SHOULD ONLY use symbols (e.g. < or >) in content for their semantic use (rather than, for example, using >> as a fast forward button).

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6. Structure/function/layout

6.1. You MUST provide consistent navigation - see Page Layout Standards.

6.2. You MUST clearly define the different sections of the page and ensure consistent location of screen objects - see Page Layout Standards.

6.3. All text based content SHOULD be published on a plain solid background.

6.4. You MUST NOT create periodically auto-refreshing pages in their default state, i.e. you can allow an opt-in auto-refresh.

6.5. You MUST NOT break browser back button functionality.

6.6. You MUST NOT open a new window from an existing browser by any mechanism UNLESS this is a small window (aka pop-up) to contain a media player. See XHTML Integrity Standard clause 13 for further details.

6.7. You MUST clearly label links (in the text of the page) which launch pop-ups so that the audience know they are launching a pop-up.

6.8. Pop-ups MUST NOT appear without being intentionally opened by the user.

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7. Movement

7.1. You MUST NOT cause an item on the screen to flicker – see Flicker Guidelines.

7.2. You MUST NOT use blinking, flickering or flashing objects.

7.3. You MUST provide a mechanism to freeze any movement on the page UNLESS there is no alternative to the movement.

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8. Audio and video content (A/V)

8.1. Audio and video content MUST NOT autoplay UNLESS the users knows this is going to happen.

8.2. You SHOULD provide subtitles/captions that can be turned off and on for AV content (including AV content featured in interactive features or games), unless you have evidence that the business costs are a risk to the success of the project’s fruition.

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9. Frames

9.1. You MUST describe the purpose of frames and how they relate to each other if this is not obvious using the frame titles alone.

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10. Forms

10.1. Forms MUST be navigable using the keyboard. In particular, you should beware of putting onChange instructions on a select box (dropdown list) using javascript.

10.1.1. A keyboard user trying to navigate the options in the select box may automatically be taken to their first selection (keystroke) rather than their desired selection, if onChange instructions are used.

10.2. You MUST provide a "submit" button on all forms.

10.3. The Accessibility Working Group is currently developing a full standard around creating accessible forms. In the meantime, for guidance refer to the following:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites.

10.4. Refer also to the Semantic Mark-up Standard for further information about forms.

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11. Documents

11.1. All downloadable documents including PDFs MUST be made available in alternative accessible formats, either HTML or Text.

11.2. All PDFs MUST comply with the PDF Accessibility Guidelines.

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12.1. Where possible all pages SHOULD provide users with the option to bypass groups of related links e.g. "Skip to Content", "Skip to Local Navigation" and "Skip to Global Navigation". This option SHOULD be the first thing found by screen readers i.e. first thing inside the body tag.

12.1.1. "Skip to Content"

12.1.2. "Skip to Global Navigation"

12.1.3. "Skip to Page Navigation"

12.2. You MUST provide redundant text links for each active region of an image map.

12.3. All links to video content SHOULD be accompanied by an image that encapsulates what the programme is or is about.

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13. Accessibility options

13.1. Page layout MUST accommodate the enlarging of text.

13.2. You MUST use style sheets to control layout and presentation.

13.3. You MUST NOT use tables for non-tabular data/content, or presentational markup, e.g. font tags. For more on this see Semantic Mark-up Standards.

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14. Document history

18/05/2009 v1.5 Edited clause 6.6 for clarity. The use of new windows and pop-ups is restricted to the presentation of media players only. Ed Lee
18/03/2009 v1.4 Added clause 3.9 requiring use of HTML text buttons. Edited clause 6.6 restricting the use of new windows and pop-ups to the presentation of media players only. Added clause 8.1 requiring that A/V content does not autoplay unless announced as such. Ed Lee
24/06/2008 v1.3 Added links to related information about developing accessible forms. Minor changes to clause 8.1, to further define subtitling/captioning for AV content. Victoria Jolliffe
24/9/2007 v1.2 Minor changes to clarify the standard, mostly around JavaScript Gareth Ford Williams
19/03/2007 v1.1 Minor changes agreed in the work group to clarify section 3.1 and 3.1.2, as amended by Tech Forum on 15/03/2007 Tred Magill, Gareth Ford Williams
06/12/2006 v1.0 Changes agreed in Tech Forum. Delete section 12 except for 12.1, 12.5. Also delete sections 13, 5.2, 11.2. Amend 10.1, 3.4. Tred Magill
30/11/2006 v0.9 First draft to replace Accessibility checklist Gareth Ford Williams, Lucy Dodd, Nick Holmes

The following document history is for the "Accessibility checklist" which was replaced:

22/09/2006 V 1.1 Editorial sign-off of editorial standards, from Head Editorial Affairs. Tred Magill/Gareth Ford-Williams
30/08/06 V 1.1 (draft) Inclusion of editorial standards recommended by work group. Gareth Ford-Williams
13 /06/06 V 1.0 Merged recommendations of Technical and Design Forum, renamed version v 1.0. Tred Magill
June 06 V 0.4 Approved by Technical Forum on 15/06/2006 and Design Forum on 30/06/2006. Gareth Ford Williams
June 06 V 0.3 Amendments to make accessibility rules mandatory, as recommended by WG Gareth Ford Williams
29/3/05 v0.2 Jonathan Hassell

Document editor: Editor, Standards & Guidelines. If you have any comments, questions or requests relating to this document, please contact the Editor, Standards & Guidelines.

Like all other Future Media Standards & Guidelines, this page is updated on a regular basis, through the process described on About Standards & Guidelines.

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