Creating a universally accessible web presence
If our core mission centres around being an inclusive organisation, then as a minimum we should be making our online presence as accessible as we possibly can.
The catalyst for change
At Good Things Foundation our vision is ‘A world where everyone benefits from digital’, we believe that everyone has the right to access digital technology and more importantly, the right skills to effectively use technology to be happier, healthier and better off. We strive to provide these digital skills to improve people’s lives, delivering numerous projects across the UK to reach the most digitally excluded people.
It’s important to keep our mission in mind when we talk about accessibility. It is a word that is bandied around a lot and sometimes loses some of its meaning. If our core mission centres around being an inclusive organisation, then as a minimum we should be making our online presence as accessible as we possibly can.
Web accessibility in its purest form relates to the usability of a website for all people. Can a website be used by everyone? Can everyone perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with the functionality of your website?
In the past we haven’t strictly adhered to accessibility standards, but making websites usable for everyone should be a minimum and is why we have started to change how we work. Accessibility is now part of the design, user experience (UX), coding, and testing of everything we create that will be used by our stakeholders.
What have we done?
Over the last 18 months we have made some key changes to culture around accessibility. This began when we started work on the next iteration of our learning platform, Learn My Way. The key to the change in culture has been educating stakeholders and team members on how to make a completely accessible site. At the heart of this is the idea that ‘accessibility’ really means ‘universal access’ and is not just about users with impairments of any kind. This consistent approach has led to wider buy-in from the organisation, resulting in people taking responsibility to ensure good UX and accessibility principles are always implemented.
Learn My Way is used by over 300,000 people per year. Our users come from many different backgrounds and access the platform on different devices, some connected to home or public wifi, others using data on their phone. Having this mix of demographics means that it is imperative we ensure that this learning platform is accessible to all. In the next iteration of Learn My Way, you will see that we have made the site work for assistive technologies such as screen readers, and have ensured the colours/design elements used are suitable for people with visual impairments. Learn My Way will also be universally accessible across a wide range of devices.
Using the Google Lighthouse audit tool to evaluate some of the changes we’ve made to the site, we’ve improved our accessibility score across the board and now score no lower than 97% on each page, even scoring 100% on the new registration and sign in pages. We have also used the WAVE evaluation tool to measure that the site is fully WCAG 2.0 Level AA compliant.
What does the future hold?
Our accessibility work doesn’t just stop with Learn My Way, some of the principles we have been applying in that project have become fundamental in how we design and build our other websites. The new Good Things Foundation website is a big improvement from the previous iteration and has used a lot of the design principles highlighted. There will also be a review of our other websites and recommendations for how we can improve them, and bring them up to the same standards of our newer sites.
We appreciate that we haven’t always been perfect in this area, but we are working hard to improve the accessibility with our websites, to make sure we’re doing everything we can to create a world where truly everyone can benefit from digital.
Thursday, May 20, 2021, marks the tenth Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD). The purpose of GAAD is to get everyone talking, thinking and learning about digital access/inclusion and people with different disabilities.
Duncan works in the Marketing and Communications team doing all things digital – that means looking after websites, geeking out over analytics, planning social media strategies, and occasionally getting his hands dirty with design to make everything look and work just as it should.