Thursday 21 May 2020 was the ninth Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD), a day dedicated to raising awareness around accessibility in the digital world. This year, like previous years, we used the day to encourage people to talk, think and learn about inclusion and consider how people with different disabilities access and interact with digital services and websites. We ran a number of virtual lunch and learn sessions and pointed colleagues to some online exercises and videos.
Leading the way in accessibility
HMRC is aiming to become a leader in accessibility by providing inclusive, accessible and usable services by default. Our key objectives are to increase colleagues’ awareness of accessibility by promoting what we do, as well as equipping them with the right tools and providing training and guidance to help them carry out their roles effectively.
We need to get accessibility right. It's critical for all our customers, as well as for our colleagues to have accessible services.
Mark Denney, HMRC Chief Digital and Information Officer
We created a Raising accessibility awareness web page with things to try at home and videos to watch.
We build accessible services
Accessibility should not be an afterthought. We begin all projects with a consideration of accessibility from the outset and continue this to the launch of a service. Building inclusive services entails the involvement of users in all phases of user research. This helps us to understand the barriers different groups of users might face when trying to use our services and enables us to make sure anyone who needs to can use them as easily as possible.
Our design patterns and components, either from the GOV.UK or HMRC design system, have accessibility embedded within them. All of our services get a content design review to ensure they are written in plain English and follow the GOV.UK style guide.
We carry out usability testing with various disabilities to improve functionality and check for accessibility compliance of our services under development. We do that either in our user research facilities, visiting our users (currently on hold due to Covid-19) or remotely using online collaboration tools.
We have an exhaustive assurance process, including internal and external accessibility audits to check compliance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.1). Our delivery teams rigorously conduct tests before putting the service through an accessibility audit. We are expanding our internal capability to conduct continuous accessibility audits, enabling service teams to identify and fix accessibility issues sooner in an agile way. Even the smallest changes can make the biggest difference.
Raising empathy and awareness
People don’t intentionally make something inaccessible. Sometimes this can be due to the lack of understanding, awareness or know-how. We are providing specialised training for our colleagues who design and build digital services but we also want to raise awareness and improve understanding throughout HMRC.
Raising awareness and building an inclusive culture led us to the creation of the HMRC Accessibility Empathy Hubs. The hubs demonstrate the barriers that disabled people can encounter and enable colleagues from HMRC and across government to experience what it is like to use services for people with different needs. It’s surprising, for example, just how powerful it is trying on a pair of glasses that simulate sight loss.
Building accessible services for customers and our own people in HMRC is vitally important. We want to inspire colleagues to think about the role they play in a new, more accessible way. But even if we are not all in the development of digital services or websites, we can still help by making accessible documents, presentations or emails that we create and share.
Help us build accessible services - our user panel
Over the last few years we have been building up our own panel of users. It is now the biggest recruitment panel in government with more than 66,000 signed up to take part in user research and give us feedback on the services we are building including more than 3,500 users who have told us that they use assistive technologies.
Further to this work, we have multiple initiatives under way to ensure our recruitment process is inclusive and accessible for as many users as possible. This includes people with access needs, mental health problems and other barriers to HMRC services. We are doing this by engaging with charities and non-governmental organisations, as well as improving our sign-up process to include offline channels.
If you would like to become a member of our panel you can sign up online, or call 0300513300.
Dr George Papatzanis
Head of User Research, Digital Inclusion & Standards
Would you like to join our team? We’re looking for a Head of Digital Inclusion, Accessibility & Standards. For details on this role and all our current vacancies take a look at our digital jobs page