Over last 18 months, we’ve made a number of changes to our website as part of a digital accessibility audit, and I can now say that our website is compliant with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 AA (WCAG) [opens in new window].
At the start of this project, I referred to myself in work as the accessibility champion, a tongue-in-cheek statement that I’ve now turned into an invisible badge I wear around the office!
Committed to equality
Many services are now available online and this is now becoming the default solution for service providers, especially in the public sector with budget cuts encouraging big changes.
But for some people, digital services can create barriers and it’s important to consider the needs of your service users and address any accessibility issues.
In the UK alone, there are around 11 million people registered as having an impairment. Around a third have had problems when trying to use or access services [opens in new window].
Our journey began after we completed an equality impact assessment of our website. It’s something we have to do in relation to Section 29 of the Equality Act 2010 [opens in new window].
Anyone with access to the internet can visit our website:
By publishing on the internet you are inviting people to enter your world. Respect them when they get there. Sarah Richards, Content Design Centre [opens in new window].
Our website provides an information service, it stores almost all of our audit reports and many other types of content and information relating to our work, like news and events.
The equality impact assessment that we completed showed that we needed to make sure we were doing more to remove any potential barriers for people online.
So what did we do?
The first decision we made was to install BrowseAloud on our website. It provides a lot of supporting features to a wide range of users that are unlikely to have access to their own assistive technology. You can read a bit more about BrowseAloud on our accessibility statement [opens in new window].
Then we decided to get our website audited (we do love an audit, after all) by the Digital Accessibility Centre [opens in new window] in order to check our compliance with WCAG.
One of the main benefits of having the audit was that we were able to spend the day with the testing team located nearby in Neath Port Talbot. This was such a valuable experience and really educated us about the frustrating barriers many people encounter. It was also useful to gain an understanding of how some of the different assistive technologies work.
Our audit report showed that we’d passed 70% of the tests. I felt quite pleased that we had a reasonably high score but knew some of the fails would require a lot of time to rectify.
Working closely with our IT Developer, I spent the next few months prioritising the fixes and changes in terms of how easy they were and how long they would take.
Some of the fixes – for example; changing hyperlink text – were simple changes, but took a long time to complete due to the large numbers of pages on the website. Whereas, some of the most complicated fixes took several days to investigate the problem, try solutions and test, but just minutes to apply to the live site!
We completed the fixes and changes in and around our normal work plus we were both learning a lot on the job, which added to our timescale and resulted in a much later completion date than we’d hoped for.
Along with making changes to the website, we had to address the accessibility of our published content. This has probably had the most impact on us as an organisation because the changes we’ve had to make affect our processes for authoring, proofing, design and publishing.
To help all staff involved in drafting content, I produced guidance, offered advice to colleagues and gave input on training and templates to make sure we were being consistent. It’s very much a learning curve for everyone, but I’ve received some positive comments from staff that support the changes and our commitments to digital inclusion.
The guidance covers the following five areas, which relates to publications (as well as web content):
- Using a logical heading structure
- Providing text alternatives for visual content
- Using a suitable font and avoiding italics
- Giving context to hyperlink text (no more click here)
- Providing a text summary for any table data
Now that we have finally received our accreditation from the DAC, I’m able to reflect on the work that we’ve completed and feel pleased that we’ve come this far with very little knowledge and experience at the start.
Websites are never finished (we’re actually reviewing our website [opens in new window] in general at the moment), but until we look for reaccreditation we know we’re meeting a recommended standard and have, at least, achieved some of our goals for a digitally inclusive audit office.
About the author
Louise Foster-Key is our Digital Communications Officer and has been working at the Wales Audit Office for nearly 3 years. Outside of work, she surrounds herself in music, food and a sizable collection of trainers.