Designing with accessibility in mind

Blog by Mark Palmer, User Experience Specialist at Registers of Scotland.

Our customer enhancement project has already seen a number of changes to customer facing systems. At the heart of these changes is a desire not only to provide useful, usable online services for our customers, but to also make these services usable for people regardless of ability by designing with accessibility in mind.

Accessibility is the discipline of making content and services usable for all users, including those with impairments. This means taking into consideration the way that people with impairments use the web. These users encounter all of the same usability issues that non-impaired users face, but can also encounter a further layer of difficulty if content is not optimised for accessibility.

In order to ensure that this does not happen, we are working hard to make sure that our content is accessible to:

  • people who do not use a mouse to interact with the page and instead use either the keyboard or an alternative input device
  • people with low-vision or colour blindness by carefully considering the colour combinations we present throughout our services
  • non-sighted users of screen reader assistive technology
  • the hearing impaired
  • people with cognitive impairments such as dyslexia and dyspraxia

We can’t do all of these things at once though, so we’ve started identifying areas which we can target first. Initially we want to make sure that:

  • our content is navigable using the keyboard alone or when using an input device which mimics keyboard input (such as a switch device)
  • that all of our eforms can be understood when listened to using screen reader software
  • our designs meet guidelines related to colour contrast and use of colour
  • any error messages are clear and in plain English where possible

We’ll do this by making sure that we integrate regular accessibility checks into our development cycle, including testing with assistive technologies. We also plan to expand our existing user research session to include users with impairments.

In the user experience team, we’re busy developing design patterns which are accessible to users with impairments and users of assistive technology, which we can then implement across our products – both new and legacy – over time.

Here at Registers of Scotland, we are very much dedicated to applying the principles of inclusive design to any software or services that we build.

If you haven’t already done so, please do join our UX panel so that you can help us shape our products and services going forward.

 

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