Hello! I'm Léonie Watson. I'm working with Government Digital Service (GDS) on the accessibility of the beta site. This is the first of a series of accessibility focused posts I'll be putting together over the next few months.
I must admit I’m not one for dwelling on the past. I believe it’s important to learn from history, but I also know you can’t change it. Accessibility was the topic of much discussion in the days before and after the alpha site was launched. Now I hope we can refocus that discussion on the beta site and everything we’re doing there instead.
Tom Loosemore has said: “…we want to make the most easy to use, accessible government website there has ever been”. Those of you who know something about web development on this scale will understand what a challenge that is. Those of you who know me will also recognise it’s a goal I thoroughly believe in.
So, what are we doing to achieve that goal?
Simply put, we’re planning accessibility in from the outset and documenting the accessibility steps we take throughout the website’s lifetime. It’s a process we’ll take beyond launch, as we continue to gather feedback and evolve the beta site.
We’re following British Standard (BS)8878 Web Accessibility Code of Practice from the British Standards Institution (BSI). BS8878 defines a process for making web accessibility a core component of an organisation’s activities, so it gives us a practical starting point.
We’re inviting people with disabilities to take part in our regular testing sessions. There isn’t a substitute for learning from people’s first hand experiences, so this will be a really valuable source of feedback for us.
We’re talking to people (lots of people). Accessibility isn’t something that can be achieved in isolation, so we’re reaching out to people with knowledge, experience and personal insight!
- We’ve contacted members of the eAccessibility Forum to ask for their insights, suggestions and advice;
- We’re meeting with representatives from different disability organisations, to learn from their knowledge and experience;
- We’re talking to accessibility professionals from academia, industry and government, so we can draw on their collective wisdom;
- We're engaging in dialogue via this blog, based on your (very welcome) feedback and comments.
We have already had a tremendous response from many people. One person who has given us some insight into the experiences of people with learning disabilities, made an interesting point. He said: “At the end of the day, I’m a UK citizen. If I help to create an inclusive experience, it will benefit me directly as well as everyone else”.
We may not end up with a perfect 10 for accessibility. I’m enough of a realist to know that few websites launch in a perfect state, irrespective of accessibility or not. I do know that Tom, Paul, Rich, Josh, and all the others including myself, are determined to create a website that’s practical, useful and usable for everyone.
Photo credit: Paul Downey