Making Things Accessible

Making Things Accessible

We’ve been doing a lot of work around accessibility with local authorities since we started. It’s something everyone wants to do well but it can feel overwhelming. There’s so much theory to understand and it’s hard to know exactly what to do in practice.

I’ve been speaking to so many local authorities about it, I wanted to blog about it too to share the insights, tools and techniques that can benefit other councils or organisations. This is the first in a series of 3 blogs on digital accessibility, covering what digital accessibility is and why it’s important. The other two blogs will cover what’s included and exempt from the regulations, and hints and tips for different content types.  

What is accessibility? 

Accessibility is such a key part of digital public services. After all, in the UK more than 6.3 million people are dyslexic, 1.5 million have a learning disability and 2 million live with sight loss. 

In this context, accessibility refers to designing devices, products, and environments such that individuals with disabilities or sensory impairments can successfully use the device or product (Codecademy). Web accessibility is about universality and making something that can be used by as many people as possible. It’s also a legal requirement and is everyone’s responsibility (AbilityNet).  

The Government Digital Service (GDS) say:  

Making a website or mobile app accessible means making sure it can be used by as many people as possible. 

This includes those with: 

  • impaired vision 
  • motor difficulties 
  • cognitive impairments or learning disabilities 
  • deafness or impaired hearing 

At least 1 in 5 people in the UK have a long-term illness, impairment or disability (Scope). Many more have a temporary disability and 1 in 2 people will be disabled at some point in their lifetime. And impairments aren’t always a permanent thing. There might be people who experience a permanent disability – such as being deaf, people who temporarily don’t have use of their senses due to illness or injury – such as having an ear infection, and people who don’t have full use of their senses because of the situation they’re in – such as the bartender in the noisy pub. 

But accessibility means more than putting things online. It means making your content and design clear and simple enough so that most people can use it without needing to adapt it, while supporting those who do need to adapt things. People who need to adapt things might be someone with impaired vision who might use a screen reader (software that lets a user navigate a website and ‘read out’ the content), braille display or screen magnifier. They could be someone with motor difficulties who might use a special mouse, speech recognition software or on-screen keyboard emulator. 

Now we know what accessibility means, and how important is it, how do you ensure your platforms and content are accessible? My next two blogs will cover this and will be coming out in the next few days.  

If you have any questions, you can comment below, or email us at digitalteam@wlga.gov.uk or timdigidol@wlga.gov.uk 

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