Covid-19 & website accessibility

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Covid-19 has highlighted many things. The ‘new normal’ for many involves spending much more time at home and relying on websites to provide them access to the outside world; many without the assistance of friends and family which they might have previously been used to. We have covered how we are helping the museum and arts sectors reach people at home with online exhibitions, but what about the end users?

Now more than ever it is essential that websites are as user friendly and accessible as possible – people need to find what they are looking for quickly and intuitively without getting frustrated. This is where user testing comes in.

Jakob Nielsen from Nielsen Norman Group discusses how Covid-19 has made website accessibility more important than ever, particularly for senior citizens. Source: Nielsen Norman Group

At Surface Impression, we take accessibility really seriously. Many of our clients are disability groups and charities, and our experience is reinforced by working together with disabled users with access needs, rather than seeing access as a “tick box” exercise. We continually explore ways of making our products as accessible to as many users as possible, according to different needs, preferences and in different contexts. We’ve established good practice around using the built-in access tools on different devices, including smart phones and tablets. We are all passionate about accessibility, and our work is overseen by a dedicated accessibility specialist, Shelley Boden, who we have worked with for over a decade.

Over this time we have built up knowledge of the huge range of advice, regulations and guidelines that have emerged from various industry, governmental and NGO bodies. We build our sites and apps with reference to the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium’s) WCAG 2.1 (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines).  We are experienced in ensuring client sites comply with regulations that affect public sector sites in the UK and elsewhere in Europe as part of the Web Accessibility Directive.

At the heart of all of this, the user is central to everything we do, and we regularly test our sites and consult with an access panel of users. Our access knowledge is widely recognized by the cultural and non-profit sectors, and our experience ranges from providing consultancy and training for organisations such as the National Archives, CyMAL (Welsh Museums Archives and Libraries council), BBC, University of Brighton and University of Leicester. Recently Shelley worked as the digital accessibility consultant for RNIB’s Sensing Culture, advising the Oxford Natural History Museum, Lewes Castle, the Beaney Museum and the Conan Doyle Collection at Portsmouth Archives on ways to increase access for blind and partially sighted visitors. This culminated in our presenting at conference and building the site to share resources with other museum professionals.

We strongly encourage all our clients to build accessibility into their products and we’d be keen to discuss any ideas for increasing the accessibility of your site, to reach all your users on all their devices. 

Disability Arts Online

Disability Arts Online (DAO) was set up to advance disability arts and culture to as wide an audience as possible, supporting disabled artists by getting the word out about the fantastic art being produced by artists within the sector.

Screenshot of the main page of Disability Arts Online website
Testing a caption. Let’s see what happens and if we can replicate the issues noticed previously.

Disability Arts International

Commissioned by the British Council, Disability Arts International promotes the work of disabled artists, disabled-led companies and inclusive arts organisations. It also aims to share the ways arts organisations are increasing access to the arts for disabled people as audiences and visitors.

Screenshot of Disability Arts International hero image from their website

Sensing Culture

We launched the Sensing Culture website in summer 2018 to showcase the HLF funded accessible heritage project lead by The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB).

Sensing Culture website screenshot - homepage

VocalEyes

VocalEyes help arts organisations identify and remove barriers for access and inclusion for blind and partially sighted people. They deliver around 160-180 live audio-described performances in theatres every year, and provide a range of supporting services to cultural organisations.

Screenshot of VocalEyes website home page

Get in touch with us

Reach out to our team to learn more about how you can provide an inclusive and accessible experience for your audience…

UK / Europe

Sally Moorhouse

Director

Surface Impression Ltd.

[email protected]

Canada / USA

Dr. Amy Hetherington

Director

Surface Impression (Canada) Ltd.

[email protected]