Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) takes place every year on the third Thursday of May. Its purpose is to raise awareness of the needs of more than 1 billion people globally with disabilities or impairments. Everyone can get involved through publishing posts and attending and contributing to events about accessibility.

Improving what we know and do about accessibility

For this year’s Awareness Day, I’d like to share what we’re doing at dxw to keep improving our understanding and awareness of accessibility, our approach to it and how we support our clients.

For the past year, alongside my developer role, I’ve been learning to what extent our team knows about accessibility, whether we’re good at it, and how we can improve any shortcomings in our knowledge and application of designing accessible products and services.

Accessibility regulations for the public sector

Last year the UK accessibility regulations, first introduced in 2018, came into force for all public sector websites. Over the past year we’ve completed accessibility audits and provided advice and remediation work to help our clients make sure their websites are accessible for as many people as possible and achieve Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1 to at least level AA.

Accessible accessibility reports

Instead of publishing the results of an accessibility audit as a pdf, we decided to make them as easy to understand and accessible as possible by developing our own WordPress platform to publish HTML-based reports straight to the web. This means that our clients can read their accessibility report on any browser or device as well as assistive technologies without facing difficulty or barriers.

GovCamp

Despite the ongoing restrictions of the pandemic, both LocalGovCamp and GovCamp North went ahead but as online conferences. Alex Jackson, Head of GovPress, and I presented over Zoom with a practical guide to making your website accessible for everyone. This included an overview of the UK accessibility regulations for an audience of people who work in and around the public sector.

WordPress Accessibility Day

As part of WordPress Accessibility Day I presented the work we did to develop our own platform for publishing accessible accessibility reports. The 24 hour event attracted a global audience and included a broad range of technical and non-technical talks related to addressing website accessibility, primarily using WordPress. All the talks were live captioned and work is ongoing by the organisers to provide closed captions too.

dxw Accessibility forum

This year we started running a monthly accessibility forum for all dxw staff.

At the first forum, I ran a workshop to find out what being accessible means to different people and to ask how can we develop a culture of accessibility at dxw. This generated a lot of thought and discussion. Things like how we include accessibility in all our ways of working, training and sales, and how we prioritise accessibility with clients to consider a spectrum of disabilities.

One of our user researchers, Hilary, has been leading a workshop to identify ways we can improve our project roadmapping to think more about accessibility as an integral part of the process for uncovering user needs. This has raised a lot of important considerations and questions such as how we communicate accessibility needs with clients and whether we have the hard evidence that supports doing accessibility work in the first place.

Accessibility in the dxw playbook

Part of making sure we have a consistent approach to making our work more accessible has been to publish guidance in our playbook on handling web accessibility in a project. As well as guidance, there’s best practice for scoping, designing, delivery and testing of websites and how to apply good accessibility principles at every stage.

The year ahead

Implementing accessibility at scale isn’t easy and there’s still plenty more for us to do. It’s important we remain committed as an organisation to putting accessibility at the centre of every decision we make in a way that’s accountable and embedded in our working practices.

Making a service accessible isn’t a one-off tick box exercise, but an ongoing process. We’re here to help support organisations with the knowledge and expertise we have in our multidisciplinary teams to create public services that work well for everyone.

Further reading

Global Accessibility Awareness Day
Making accessible accessibility reports (YouTube)
LocalGovCamp2020 Day 4 session recordings and outputs

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