GAAD week blog 05.2023

Global Accessibility Awareness Day: How we make our services accessible to everyone

At the NHS Business Service Authority (NHSBSA) we design, develop, and test every one of our services to ensure we have built them to be accessed and used by everyone.

This Global Accessibility Awareness Day, Chris Lockie, Professional Lead for Testing tells us why we pride ourselves on changing the ‘norm’, so we have services that focus on digital access and inclusion - putting our users at the centre of everything we do.

Power to the people

We have changed how we develop services by improving our approach to accessibility. We test our pages with a range of accessibility tools, such as WAVE, AXE and Google Lighthouse. Using screen readers and speech recognition software we can see how our users would interact with the components we’ve developed. Reviewing keyboard navigation and focusing styles ensures that our pages are inclusive for all users.

Our developer communities and channels are important for keeping up to date with new guidance and standards. We’re able to raise issues and discuss solutions with a range of colleagues with different backgrounds and experiences. By sharing, discussing, and documenting, we're able to keep our services consistent and improve our users’ experience.

We continue to produce high-quality production code with semantically sound HTML5 featuring appropriate ARIA attributes to provide a logical and informative interface for our users.

We’ve changed how we test services, reaching out to community groups and charities. speaking to a range of people. The NHS Jobs CSAT survey has enabled us to connect to more applicants with access needs, and we’ve now added the access needs and protected characteristics questions to the employer CSAT to help us better understand the experiences of employers who have access needs.

Over the last few years, our development teams have put a lot of work into bringing our older services up to standard. We’re always looking to iterate and improve, by completing that work, we’re able to be proactive rather than reactive.

We don’t just sit on our laurels with accessibility, we always strive for more. Whether this is readiness for the new WCAG 2.2 guidelines or increasing our usability testing and studies.

But all the above is still not of any use if we don’t listen and learn from the most important people, our users.

The value of research

Our user research has found some valuable insight, including creating saved searches and saved jobs to help reduce applicant’s cognitive load when job searching.

In our work with NHS Student Bursary, we have been researching with students accessing the Disabled Students Allowance, we have spoken to students with access needs including those that have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). We were able to gain insight into how the condition means that those students can find it much harder to concentrate in longer application processes, so being able to save the application and come back to it again in the future is useful.

Already in the Hormone Replacement Therapy Prescription Prepayment Certificate (HRT PPC) service, we have had sessions with individuals with autism, dyslexia, and ADHD. We’ve learnt that consistency in content throughout the journey was key and simple, short sentences really helped. They’ve also given great insight into the ordering of pages and the use of hyperlinks to provide more context.

Our goals

Accessibility has also become an important part of our culture and now all professions and service areas focus extensively on improving accessibility. What we learn from one service then becomes the foundation for the next and we strive to continue learning and developing services to our user needs.  

This Global Accessibility Awareness Day our goal is for our services to be used more by more people. This drives us to get closer to our users which then can help shape how our services move forward in the future.