Here is why you should consider website accessibility from the beginning!
Starting a new development
I have just started consulting on a new project. It is the development of a search tool from one of the UK’s regional parliaments. This tool is to replace the one that is already there, which is rather old and not at all accessible for disabled people.
The emphasis from the client has been that they wanted accessibility to be at the forefront of the development of this new tool so my initial meeting with the developers was before anything had been designed at all.
Analysis of previous tools
We looked at the existing tool and then at tools that were on the other parliament websites. I was able to show the developers the strengths and (mostly) weaknesses that were apparent and give guidance on the sort of functionality to include that did not exist on the other tools.
I have to say it was one of the most productive meetings I have ever had! It is up to the developers to design it as they prefer. I will never make a comment on how something looks aesthetically, I will only ever comment from an accessibility point of view.
Function over form
For me, it is always about how a tool functions. People have many different types of disabilities: visual, physical, cognitive and it can be a challenge to strike a balance between them all.
One of the great things about having a meeting at this stage was the fact we could take a step back and look at what the journey was going to be like for disabled people. There are so, so many possible permutations and options that, no matter how well coded, it was not going to be possible to make it fully accessible. It is akin to trying to explain a very complex graph to someone who is visually impaired.
An inclusive, alternative approach
It became readily apparent that two versions of this tool would be needed. A simple search and a complex search. The simple search would allow any visitor to get information quickly in an accessible format whilst the complex search would allow anyone to choose from literally hundreds of different possible combinations.
Taking this approach ensures that both the needs of disabled people and people requiring more complex searches, such as researchers, are met.
The entire process took one hour and has set the project on a firm footing. The tool will, I hope, then set the standard for the other ones to follow.
Getting it right from the beginning
It has been brilliant to be involved in a project from the outset! I know there will be fewer challenges, very little remedial and a great experience with my amazing audit team!