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Michelle Hay

Bracknell Forest Council improving their accessibility, leading to improved User Experience for all.

Accessibility Public sector


Accessibility regulations across UK Local Government authorities is a big topic with the EU Directive coming into force.

There is of course the legal requirement, but importantly is the ‘want’ to ensure all your online services are available without any discrimination – at Bracknell Forest Council, the Digital Services Team is lead by Colin Stenning (Digital Services Manager) and is leading the charge on accessibility be it from the internal education to external excellence online.  

The European Union Directive 2016/2102/EU, creates a set of standards for EU public sector bodies, using European standard EN 301 549 V1.1.2 (2015-04) and was approved on October 26, 2016. It came into force for in the UK on 23 September 2018. The aim of the regulations is to ensure public sector websites and mobile apps can be used by as many people as possible.

The Directive lists three dates for compliance to be achieved:

  • 22 September 2019
    • New public sector websites (those published after 22 September 2018)
  • 22 September 2020
    • All other public sector websites
  • 22 June 2021
    • Public sector mobile apps

We’ve seen compliance levels increase since the introduction of the directive. In Q1 2018, no UK local authority passed A and AA on every page we assessed, however in the Q3 2019, three sites passed A and AA on every page. 

So why are authorities taking action? 

Of course, as local government authorities are public sector organisations they are legally obliged to meet these guidelines. However, there are also the moral reasons for not excluding anyone from accessing their site.

We often here that accessibility is just for those using screen readers, however, by improving the accessibility of a website, the experience for all users is improved. For example, sufficient contrast benefits people using the web on a mobile device in bright sunlight or in a dark room and captions on videos benefit people in noisy and in quiet environments. 

A recent Diginomica article outlining the achievement Bracknell Forest Council has made outlines how the authority has “improved the accessibility of its website as part of a drive to deliver equal access for all visitors”.

Bracknell Forest have made a big improvement to their site, since Q1 2019 they have increased 92 places from 94th to 2nd and improving their accessibility compliance and other areas including Function and Links which includes broken links. 

How have Bracknell Forest improved their site?

Bracknell Forest’s Digital Services Manager explains “The council has an ongoing commitment to make its website accessible, inclusive and user-friendly for everyone, and we’ve been working to ensure it’s fully accessible through an ongoing programme of work.”

This work included a full audit of all the Council’s website, which was followed by a migration of the site to a different hosting environment and a rework of the site in line with Government Digital Service Standards guidelines to ensure it met the expected high standards of accessibility.

The work has also included finding any and fixing all accessibility issues that arise, as well as reviewing the sites content to ensure it is useful and easy to read. 

Work hasn’t stopped there, Bracknell are also conducting regular testing of the website by people with a wide range of disabilities as well as a drive to reduce the number of documents on the website with accessibility issues, mainly by making them into fully-accessible PDFs. 

We’re pleased to see Bracknell Forest improve their compliance and move up the INDEX table. Lawrence Shaw, Sitemorse CEO comments: “Congratulations to the team at Bracknell Forest Council for their achievement, we’re pleased to see the organisation taking their legal and moral obligations towards accessibility compliance. With a plan in place and the tools in hand, it shows that compliance is achievable”. 

Training

Automatic delivery - Just-in-time

Direct ‘just-in-time’ training materials are offered against actions, delivering immediate understanding and confidence in actioning. These videos provide help prevent the same issues being repeated.