As we mark Global Accessibility Awareness Day 2022 (GAAD), I find myself reflecting on the last year and a half, and what accessibility now means to us and our website.

On 23 September 2018, accessibility regulations for local authority websites and apps came into force.  We were given some time to make sure our website met the regulations, and we took on a large project to make the website compliant with WCAG 2.1. You can read more about that project in our blog “The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.”

To ensure we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing, the Accessibility Monitoring Team was set up in the Cabinet Office to audit the compliance of local authority sites. On 19 August 2021, during the middle of the pandemic, we received our audit for

I won’t lie, I did have a small panic, hoping that all the work we had put into the site had made us compliant and benefited people who needed to access our information. There’s nothing quite like seeing a Cabinet Office email drop into your inbox. The risks to the organisation of not being compliant are substantial. Not only could we be fined and reported to the Equality and Human Rights Commission. But most importantly, residents and businesses with accessibility requirements who need to access essential information could be prevented from doing so if we hadn’t succeeded in meeting their needs.

The results of the audit were overwhelmingly positive, which was a relief. They identified eight issues across the site, including the Accessibility Statement, and we had 12 weeks to understand and correct them. Having a clear document from the Cabinet Office identifying the issues we needed to fix allowed us to immediately set to work and put a plan in place, get the right people together and understand what we needed to do.

At the same time as the Cabinet Office audit, we started to make use of a new feature in our analytics tool, Site Improve. This new feature allowed us to identify other areas of improvement across the site that would add to the Cabinet Office audit and further increase the accessibility of the site. In Site Improve, we improved our score from the low 80s to 92%; their current government-industry benchmark is 85.1% as of May 2022.

Some of the things we worked on and fixed during the 12 weeks

From the Cabinet Office audit:

  • focus order: making sure the homepage made logical sense when people navigated through the main topics
  • resize text: fixed an issue with an external supplier which stopped some residents from zooming up to 200%
  • link purpose: fixed some links which didn’t have an accessible label
  • contrast: changed the colour contrast of the place holder text in our search bar
  • images: made sure images which have a decorative purpose tell assistive technology they are purely decorative and have no additional meaning to the content
  • updated and improved our accessibility statement to be more transparent about the work we’re doing

As well as the audit work, we also:

  • made headings in our profile quotes hierarchical
  • fixed the sematic structure of our contact us page, showcase and homepage service lists
  • improved the aria labels for social media links on showcase content types
  • fixed the hover state of our links and added a triple underline which makes them stand out more
  • fixed duplicate links on document icon links – one was on the text, the other on the icon
  • fixed mismatch between visible text and aria labels on some links

Recite Me tool

We’ve also been making good use of Recite Me. We’ve blogged about ReciteMe, our accessibility tool before, and we’re now getting, on average, over 4,000 people a month using it. Most recently, it’s being used to help translate our pages into Ukrainian to support our hosts and guests. 

 Our Content Designers also use Recite Me to read their work through a screen reader to make sure it sounds clear and not too wordy! This has improved how we engage with the public who use assistive technology to access our information, guidance, and services.

If you’d like to see what you can do with Recite Me, have a look at our demo video.

Screenshot of council bins page with Recite Me tool active

The work isn’t over, though, as with new content and features being added to the website, as well as third-party systems that services use, accessibility must remain at the forefront of our priorities.­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­

[GAAD] logo

Thursday the 19th of May 2022 is the 11th Global Accessibility Awareness Day. Global Accessibility Awareness Day is a yearly celebration to join together and get everyone talking, thinking, and learning about digital access and inclusion to support the one billion people worldwide with a disability/impairment.

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