Website and Accessibility

What have I been up to?

A year into my role within the Digital Team and 6 months as the Web Content Lead has been a productive and valuable learning experience. Not only have changes been made, proposals signed off and innovative ideas shared, I have also begun the journey of voicing the importance of accessibility throughout the organisation.

What is accessibility?

Digital accessibility is about making sure that as many people as possible can use the services we provide or understand the information we make available. In short, it’s about making things work for everyone.

My aim is to create a digital world with no barriers, regardless of ability so that everyone can participate fully and independently. Digital inclusion, accessibility and usability ensures we are enabling online experiences for all. When I refer to ALL, I am including our residents, customers, employees and partners.

If the website or mobile app is not accessible then it simply is not usable. But having a usable site does not mean it is accessible.​ Having both is the only way we are going to create an inclusive web.

Accessibility is the being able to access a website regardless of ability or needs. For example, if links to external sites or a form is not obvious then a user may not realise it is there. This is why you will find links are underlined, uses a different font colour from the rest of the content, or changes colour when you move your cursor over it etc.

Our design choices enables or disables our users. Not only are we considering users who may have a permanent and/or visible disability, but also those who may not be able to use the website due to their situational circumstances. For example, someone who has cataracts or is distracted may face the same accessibility issues that someone with a visual impairment may come across. Or someone who has a cognitive impairment or may have one usable arm, may face the accessibility issues as someone who has an arm injury or someone who is a new parent that is carrying a baby and needs to access a website.

Why is it important?

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) is a legislation introduced in September 2018 for public sector bodies who have public facing websites and mobile apps.

Accessibility for BwD Borough Council is a priority. We have had the Corporate Website audited by an external company, Invotra Consulting, consequently making fixes and resolving highlighted accessibility issues. You can read the case study compiled by Invotra on their website.

This collaborative work allowed me to commit time in further research on accessibility, the importance of it and understanding the legislation. Invotra were a great help in teaching and providing expertise in this area, supporting myself and the team with advice, practical examples and tools to use when completing in-house audits.

With my toolkit and knowledge I was ready to promote accessibility (or as my colleagues would like to term it ‘obsessed with accessibility’) and started to ensure accessibility requirements were met at the start of any content iterations on the website or new web designs.

Now what...?

My new-found passion with accessibility and usability was validated when we were monitored by the Central Digital and Data Office (further information can be found on GOV.UK Blog) and found the website was partially compliant to the WCAG 2.1 AA standard. I would like to note here that GOV.UK themselves are also partially compliant. Further fixes and issues with the corporate website need to be made however we are at a good stead with where we are currently. We will never be 100% compliant, this is unrealistic as things are always changing however this is where an accessibility statement helps. We provide an up to date and transparent accessibility statement to help users understand where they may find potential barriers and ways they can request other formats where necessary.

Accessibility and usability will be running alongside the website project. Work is still required on the corporate website however I will also begin tackling third party systems and platforms whilst educating the importance of accessibility throughout the organisation and how it can be embedded in all the services that we offer

By Shazia on 10th Mar 2022
Shazia Attia is the Web Content Lead at Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council.