What is an accessible service?
An accessible service or product is one that is usable by disabled people.
When we design services, both online and offline, we must make sure that everyone can use them, regardless of their ability or situation.
Accessibility applies to digital or non-digital services both for external and internal users.
All digital services must:
meet level AA of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.1) as a minimum
work on the most commonly used assistive technologies - including screen magnifiers, screen readers and speech recognition tools
Why is it important?
It is everyone’s legal right to be able to access products and services without barriers.
The Equality Act of 2010 was set up to give equal rights to everyone at work and in wider society, and the principles within the Act must be met by your service.
The Public Sector Bodies Accessibility Regulations 2018 provides further advice on what it means for making websites and mobile applications (software apps) accessible.
It’s in the interests of both users and services to make services accessible.
For users, accessible services are:
- easier to use
- inclusive for a broader range of people including older adults and people in rural areas
- more mobile and tablet friendly
For services, accessibility means your services:
- are less costly to maintain and deliver as it reduces the need for staff intervention
- can gather important information more easily about all its users, not just able bodied ones
Disabilities can be permanent, temporary or situational and each case is different, but accessibility solutions can bring benefit to all. For example, captions are necessary for deaf people, but can also benefit someone listening in a busy office.
How do you do it?
Consider accessibility as early as possible when you design a service. This includes understanding your legal obligations, having access to knowledge of standards and exploring the specific service needs of disabled people.
The sooner you discover accessibility issues, the less it will cost to fix them in the future.
Accessibility is the responsibility of your whole team. Make sure your team have an awareness of what accessibility is, inclusive design principals, and the basics of how disabled people use digital services.
User research is a big part of making your service accessible. It gives you a clear idea of who your users are and how they use, or might use, your service.
Include disabled users in your research activities when building your service.
Assistive technologies are digital aids that help people to access online services more easily and securely. For example, computer software can be used to help people read and hear better.
Assistive technology plays a vital role in helping those with:
- confidence issues around technology
- low digital skills
Non-digital assistive technologies
These should also be accessible and considered when designing your service, for example, if you send out letters, make sure there is an option to request alternatives like Braille or audio CDs.