Accessibility regulations still stand for the Public Sector in the UK, taking effect this September. While it’s really important to meet these guidelines, it’s important to remember why these guidelines are in place. Your users.
Braintree District Council is an excellent example of the importance outlined above. The council is on a journey to relaunch their website, with a brand new redesign. The council work with Shaw Trust Accessibility Services, to support them in delivering the website up to WCAG 2.1 standard. Even with a global pandemic going on, Braintree District Council made sure that accessibility remains at the core of the redesign project at a time when new challenges are arising, new services need to be created and delivered and existing services need to be modified and shifted online. Accessibility is always important, but digital is no longer a channel by choice, and it continues to be a necessity and councils to act fast.
It’s apparent that there has never been a more important time than now to ensure EVERYONE has access to services online. Those that don’t have an accessible website, or aren't moving towards an accessible website in the public sector will have found the process harder when the move to digital happened overnight due to the pandemic.
This is an important lesson to be learned, and on a recent podcast with Braintree District Council, Graham Rees-Evans, Technical Accounts Manager, from Shaw Trust Accessibility Services talks about why it’s easier to find and fix accessibility issues at design and template stages when redesigning a website, rather than wait for the website to be fully built and populated with all of the content later on in the development project. This only makes accessibility fixes more time consuming and costly later on. Jonathan Lagden from Braintree District Council also puts emphasis on why effective design is really important and quoted Steve Jobs “Design is not just about how it looks. It is about how it works”. The teams have worked closely together and spent time looking at designs, prototypes, templates and example content the website would use to form content guidelines that are up to the correct standard.
“When designing a building, you make it accessible and think of the fire exits, for example. Why should designing a website be any different?” Jonathan Lagden, Braintree District Council.
The council baked accessibility into their redesign project from day 1 and continue to do so throughout the rest of the project. The council’s main motivation? To deliver a better customer experience. When you learn how people use websites and can use websites, you design your website differently. You can do this without compromising design, and while that sits with designers - some label it a challenge, our designers at Jadu Creative label it as an exciting opportunity. Digital design can be beautiful and accessible.
P.S. If you didn’t know, Shaw Trust Accessibility Services supports organisations in the private, public and charitable sectors to create an accessible environment, both digitally and physically. The Jadu team spent time with Shaw Trust Accessibility Services testing team last year and would encourage anyone in Local Government to also spend some time with the team.