Accessibility Help Across The BBC Site (Almost)

Martin Belam  by Martin Belam, 28 October 2005

We made a site-wide template change at the BBC today, to add an "Accessibilty Help" link to our new My Web My Way section in the left-hand navigation of the page.

Coupled with the 'Text only' link in the top left-hand corner of every page with standard navigation, it means that the links most needed by people with accessibility issues should be virtually the first thing they come across on any BBC page.

Various BBC banners with the new Accessibility help link

Well, it was sort of site-wide.

When I say site-wide, I don't literally mean site-wide. One of the problems of running a site-wide template grid and structure for a site as big as the BBCs, made by as many different departments as the BBCs is, with as many different audiences as the BBC has, is that one size isn't seen to fit all. So several areas have exemptions - News and Sport don't use the same templates. Portal pages, like the TV or History pages, and especially the BBC homepage don't feature a left-hand navigation. CBBC and Schools have their own requirements and conventions. All of which means that rolling out a site-wide change is no longer a case of flicking a switch and uploading some new files, but a massive operation of co-ordination, manual edits, and detective/police work to find out who hasn't complied yet. Which rather unfortunately, as temporary chair of the project group that makes technical decisions about the templates, crosses my in-box.

So I had to make sure I'd get a clean bill of health myself. The portal pages my group look after (Homepage, TV, BBC One, BBC Two, Society and Culture and Talk) were all done today, thanks to the thoughtful team of client-side coders working on them. So I've hopefully avoided a potential petard-hoisting.

Now, if only we could get the required template changes done to make the whole site even more accessible, so that we didn't need either an "Accessibility help" or "Text only" link...

Incidentally, the My Web My Way site has been made by the BBC in partnership with Ability Net, and is the only one at with the dispensation not to carry either of these links, as it features the highest standards of accessibility the BBC has so far managed. It is also the only set of pages within the BBC site to offer the ability to switch between stylesheets to make access easier*

Three different stylesheets are available for the My Web My Way site

*To head off either Frankie or Mina's comments at the pass I am aware that h2g2 offers a selection of different 'skins' for viewing the content, but I'm discounting them because they are not a purely CSS switch, nor are any of the skins to my knowledge specifically designed with particular access problems in mind.


Fame at last! Actually I was only going to say that I spotted the link on h2g2 last night and thought it was just one of those things the DNA developers pop in when nobody's looking. I'll blame a different set of developers this time.

Good work indeed.

My only question is why the alternate stylesheets can't be specified in the html (with rel="alternate"), allowing users to do a client-side switch, as well as the server-side (with cooking-setting) version?

Great work indeed.
I only noticed this tonight, after accessing the site mainly on a text only browser.

Are there only /dna/... visitors here ?

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