When we set our goals for the new Scope website, making sure it worked for every single one of our users was top of the list.
Some of the team had worked on similar projects for other organisations, but we all knew we needed to take a big step further with inclusive design and accessibility for Scope’s website.
Our ambition was simple – let’s demonstrate that great design and great accessibility can go hand in hand.
Inclusive design at Scope means making sure all the services we provide consider the needs of everybody who will be using them. In practise this means:
- Spending lots of time talking with and listening to disabled people and families of disabled children before we start.
- Testing our products and services at every step along the way.
Digital accessibility means making sure that a website or app is usable by everyone, no matter what their impairment or what technology they use.
There are international standards for accessibility but we wanted to go further than this to see how effectively we could support the needs of the 14m disabled people in the UK.
There were 5 main areas that helped to make the inclusive design and accessibility aspect of the project a success.
Talking to our audiences
By the time we went live we had completed 32 in depth conversations with users who represent a cross section of the audiences that we know use the Scope website.
Most were disabled people that we had recruited via Scope’s own research panel. They had a variety of different needs and impairments.
Crucially, we engaged with them at every step along the way:
- Discovery phase – where we learned about the users’ needs
- Design phase – where we tested the initial designs and interactive prototypes
- Build phase – to check that what we were building worked in practise
- User Acceptance Testing (UAT) - testing and iterating with a diverse set of users including those who use assistive technology like screen readers.
Great usability leads to great accessibility
Two million people in the UK have a learning impairment, like dyslexia, that affects their ability to absorb and digest information. So making the website easy and intuitive to use, written in clear plain English, was vital.
A mantra emerged of “great usability leads to great accessibility”. We also coined the shorthand “AX” for accessibility, which aligns nicely with the common tech term UX for user experience.
This philosophy underpinned all the design and prototyping work we undertook and relentlessly drove the huge task of overhauling the 1,500 plus pages of content that made up the old website.
In the end we’ve ended up with around 450 pages that have all been designed with user needs at their heart. And we’re particularly proud of the approach we’ve taken to the design of our new Advice and Support content.
Making a website simple and easy to use and read for those with accessibility needs makes it simple and easy to use for everyone!
Although there were knowledgeable people at Scope we knew we needed help to fill in the gaps and train newer members of the team so we could tackle the project with confidence.
We hired Hassell Inclusion to provide accessibility consultancy throughout the project. This included:
- Delivering training.
- Reviewing designs and prototypes.
- Supporting the development team, for example checking their code.
- Full accessibility audit at the end of the project.
Internal training and testing
Hassell Inclusion’s comprehensive accessibility training covered project management, design, development, and testing.
We now have team who are far more confident on how to deliver accessible digital experiences. Our new in-house expertise means in future we can test the accessibility of all of Scope’s digital platforms without having to pay for outside help.
One of the most important moments on a project like this is when you choose your main partner who is going to deliver the project. We chose Aqueduct because they’d delivered great accessibility on similar projects, and because they shared our ambition to go above and beyond the legal requirements.
Aqueduct’s developers were really keen to learn from Hassell Inclusion and are now as obsessed as we are with accessibility. They’re looking forward to showing their next clients how it’s done.
As part of the website’s content overhaul we’ve updated our Accessibility Statement in line with the latest guidelines. But we’re planning for this statement to be slightly different.
Disabled people tell us time and time again that if they report an accessibility issue with a website they aren’t listened to and nothing gets done. There’s a huge number of frustrated and disillusioned users who don’t bother to raise issues at all.
We are encouraging our audience to help us improve the website by providing feedback about accessibility issues that could be improved.
We plan to regularly publish this feedback (just like financial services companies have to publish their complaints statistics), and give people information on how many of the issues we’ve been told about have been fixed.
All too often accessibility is seen as a simple box-ticking exercise that’s considered (if at all) at the end of a project. The concept of inclusive design, especially considering the needs of disabled people, rarely gets thought about at all.
Leaving accessibility to the end of a project means issues will turn up that will either be expensive and delay the project, or don’t get fixed at all.
With our accessibility-first approach we discovered that by the time we got to the final audit we had hardly any issues to fix at all. We’ve also really enjoyed talking to our users and testing what we’ve been building along the way. They’ve been great at providing feedback and we’re all super proud of the end result.