When we first started to design the Stockport Council website, we did so with the idea of trying to make it suitable for as many people as we possibly could.

Whenever I try and explain this to people, I use the analogy of our design and development process as being like a funnel. We have tried to cater for our biggest audience first, before beginning to focus on users with more specific needs. We’re effectively working our way from the widest part of the funnel to the narrower parts at the tip.

We’ve always understood the need to try and conform to the AA accessibility standards set out in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), but we’re now trying to reach out to people whose needs we are not yet meeting. This is proving to be complex.

Towards the end of September, several members of the council’s digital team met with various different stakeholders, third sector organisations and citizens to discuss accessibility and how we can make improvements going forward. This meeting proved to be a key moment in creating relationships and forging a network of users, through which we can continually look to garner feedback and consequently make improvements to the accessibility of our digital offering.

Without speaking directly to users, with a wide variety of different disabilities, we will always be making best guesses about how they use assistive technology and our website.

Working with the likes of Disability Stockport and Age UK Stockport will provide us with access to people who would not usually be in the locations we normally user test in – such as cafes, attractions and libraries. This will be invaluable going forward.

As the lead user experience designer at the council, I have a vital role in speaking to users and uncovering their needs. I want to increase our levels of understanding around assistive technology and spread this message throughout our digital team. Developers, business analysts, quality assessors amongst others will be getting involved in gaining a shared understanding and experience of accessibility and how it impacts upon people’s lives.

We’ve started the discussions, now we need to stand up and makes the changes that will push our services and website forward and fit the needs of even more citizens of Stockport.