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Imagine making it difficult for a customer in a wheelchair to get on a train at a station, it’s unthinkable. ‘Accessible’ means everyone can use it...and by everyone we mean people in the real and digital world with disabilities and without. Not making your digital project accessible risks excluding some people from using it which is unacceptable.

Why is accessibility important for NS?

As digital services become more integrated into our everyday lives, we must endeavour to provide a 100% accessible service for our customers online. It makes no sense to make our stations and trains accessible if customers with certain disabilities can’t buy a ticket online.

Not only are we legally bound to make our services accessible, all our customers will benefit when things are clearer and easier to use! Accessibility means we end up creating high quality websites and web tools for everyone; that is people with disabilities as well as others, such as older people and people in rural areas. Check out this video to find out how.

It’s good for business

There is also a strong business case for accessibility. Accessibility overlaps with other best practices such as mobile web design, device independence, multi-modal interaction, usability, design for older users, and search engine optimization (SEO). Case studies show that accessible websites have better search results, reduced maintenance costs, and increased audience reach, among other benefits.

What is accessible content?

A good starting point for making sure something is accessible is to know what we are aiming for; NS is committed to meeting the accessibility standard as set out in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2, level AA.

That means everything that we make for our customers must be perceivable, operable, understandable and robust. These are the four (POUR) principles of accessibility so you need to ask yourself the following:

Is it perceivable?

Regardless of the sensory input all of our customers rely on our interface and content must be ‘visible’. So think; sight, hearing, and touch.
Find out more about how to make it perceivable.

Is it operable?

All our customers must be able to interact with our interface and content, whatever technology or input device they are on.
Find out more about how to make it operable.

Is it understandable?

Try and make your experience as understandable as possible.
Find out more about how to make it understandable.

Is it robust?

Our software and our content must be compatible with all current and emerging technologies.
Find out more about how to make it robust.

Accessibility is everyone’s responsibility

Moving forward making sure our projects are accessible will be an integral part of our process. We are obliged in our contract with the Government to endeavour to make everything we produce 100% accessible in both the real and digital worlds. Making a page or an application 100% accessible means you’ve made it as good as it can be and as designers, content makers and developers we have a shared responsibility to make this happen.

I’m a designer

The challenge for UX and visual designers is to make it great both in terms of looks and usability in line with the accessibility guidelines; you have the responsibility to make sure it can be used by everyone.

Here are a few key things to keep in mind:

  • Imagine trying to use your mobile phone in bright sunlight. It’s tricky. Well that’s what someone with a visual impairment experiences every day. You can help them by ensuring there’s enough contrast between the foreground and background.
  • Use visual focus on the correct elements so customers know their location on a page.
  • Don’t use colour alone to convey information. Customers with a colour perception impairment will not be able to comprehend it.

Some further reading:
Accessibility guidelines for designers

I’m a developer

Developers play a key role in safeguarding accessibility. You have to build it, after all.

Here are a few key things to remember:

  • Customers need to be able to interact using only a keyboard. Many disabled customers are not able to use a mouse or pointing device. Some non-impaired customers may also choose to use their keyboard, for instance; on large forms.
  • Ensure customers are aware of screen changes when they interact with it.

Some further reading:
Accessibility guidelines for developers

I’m a content writer

Content writers should ensure that content is clear, concise and understandable for all, whatever their intelligence or level of education.

Be careful not to underestimate how tricky making accessible content is. It’s extremely important; design and development are both merely the means of conveying the message. If the content is not understandable, it’s all been for nothing.

Some further reading:
Accessibility guidelines for content writers

I’m a tester

All our projects have to be tested to make sure they really work. That means testers play a pivotal role in ensuring our work is accessible.

Some further reading:
Here’s a rundown of accessibility for testers

Why does all this matter?

Here’s an overview of the types of disabilities and impairments people have and how we can help them by endeavouring to make all our projects 100% accessible.

Overview of the types of disabilities and impairments

If you want to find out more

Here is the one ultimate source of truth for everything accessible: the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), version 2.1, of the W3C.

Want to go a little further?

The Be My Eyes app for iOS and Android enables you to help the visually impaired when they run into problems they cannot solve by themselves. More info on the Be My Eyes web site. Feel adventurous? Go directly to the Be My Eyes download page.