Here at Shaw Trust Accessibility Services, we assess clients’ websites to make sure that they are accessible for everyone to use.
Many people use assistive technology devices and software to navigate and obtain information from a website. So, that’s precisely what our team uses to test website’s accessibility.
These websites range from shops to insurance companies, where the possibility is that if a person cannot access the website and get the product or information that they need, they will go to a competitive company – resulting in the original site losing their custom.
However, when someone wants to look for information on their council, or a government website, they do not have the opportunity to get the information or service from anywhere else.
Meeting Government Accessibility Requirements and Public Sector Legislation
In September 2020, legislation came into place stating that public sector websites had to meet with government accessibility requirements.
These digital services must:
- Meet Level AA of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.1).
- Work on the most commonly used assistive technologies. These include screen magnifiers, screen readers, and speech recognition tools.
- Include people with disabilities in user-research.
- Have an accompanying accessibility page that explains how accessible the service is.
If your service meets government accessibility requirements, then you will also be meeting the accessibility regulations that apply to public sector websites and apps. The full name of the regulation is the Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No. 2) Accessibility Regulations 2018.
For further information on these regulations, read the government’s service manual introduction on making your service accessible.
My Experience With Navigating a Council or Government Website as a Visually Impaired Person
Before losing my sight, I did not even think about what a council or government website offered me. However, now it is amazing how much information and facilities these sites offer. In fact, potentially, they now allow everyone to gain the same knowledge of information as everyone else.
Information such as your bin collection. I remember when mum used to have a bin collection day list stuck on the fridge. Now, if the website is accessible, I can read that information myself – allowing me to access what bin to put out and when. In addition, I will be potentially able to pay online for any council service too.
The same is for the government websites. There is so much information that the government sites offer, it is important that these are accessible. For example, tax.
I was unaware that there is a blind person’s tax allowance, but by doing some research, I was able to read the information on the government’s site, and it directed me on what to do, along with if I was entitled.
What a Shaw Trust Accessibility Accreditation Provides to the Digital User
When a website has been assessed and given their Shaw Trust Accessibility Accreditation it provides the knowledge and confidence to everyone who is using the site, that no matter what technology they are using, the website will be accessible for them.
What Barriers Those Using Screen Reader Software Face Online
Some problems that a person using screen reader software may get going through a website are:
No Headings or Headings in an Illogical Order
Headings assist a screen reader user to navigate around the website’s pages or online documents.
Unlabelled Form Fields
When form fields are not labelled sufficiently, then a screen reader user will not know what information to complete.
Likewise, with any element, labelling the element is essential for the person to know what function it does.
The same as missing headings, we rely upon a links description to tell us where we are navigating to on a site. Simply having ‘click here’ gives us no context.
Sending and Receiving Information Online
Another issue is the process of sending or receiving information. Often this process does not work due to it not being accessible for some assistive technologies.
Inaccessible Timetables Due to Unformatted PDFs
Earlier, we were talking about bin collections – sometimes these are not accessible; likewise, bus timetables have the same issues.
Some timetables are provided in an unformatted PDF, which is either a scanned image or presented in a table. The scanned image does not provide the desired information at all for the user. Often, tables are not formatted correctly, so a person using a screen reader just gets a long list of each column at a time.
How Far We’ve Come With Digital Accessibility
The methods are all there online for everyone to gain the information on accessible websites. Sites just need to be designed with accessibility in mind, actually, in my opinion, it should now be the norm for all websites.
We’ve come a long way since the government put the public sector regulations in place, and it’s great that we can now have the confidence to go to a government site and use it without wondering if it is accessible or not.
That being said, there’s still so much work to be done on other sites and I look forward to continuing to assess their accessibility!