We are the Accessibility Community (#A11y)


Who we are?

We are the Accessibility Community at the NHSBSA – also known as #A11y.

In short, A11y is a numeronym. Numbers are used in place of letters to shorten the term. There are 11 letters omitted from the word accessibility, so that leaves you with A11y.

A11y is something we should all be aware of and consider in our day-to-day roles. If you work for NHSBSA you’re technically already part of the A11y community, so welcome to the club!


Why do we CARE about accessibility?

Accessibility in design results in a better and equal experience for everyone. At the NHSBSA we have a legal obligation to provide equal access to our services. We have to follow accessibility standards and break down any walls which may exist between our services and people with disabilities.

We are working towards creating an effective environment that shows we CARE:

  • We are Compassion to all our users
  • We will raise Awareness of accessibility needs
  • We are Responsible for improving the user experience and creating services that everyone can use in order to get Engagement from everybody.


What do we mean by disability?

People are not always disabled by their impairments – they are disabled by poorly designed environments. An environment might not always be a physical space; it could be an app, website or online service.

Generally speaking, seeing a person in a wheelchair, wearing a hearing aid, or carrying a white cane tells us a person might be disabled. But some disabilities are invisible and can affect people in different ways, even when they have the same type of disability.

We should never assume.


What are we trying to achieve?

Part of our job as a community is to find solutions to different problems. As a result, we noticed that there was a lack of general accessibility awareness across the organisation. The accessibility community is a result of a gap analysis and the need for sharing experiences and transferring skills, while making more people aware of accessibility needs.

We aspire to be transparent at all times. We want to keep in touch with our audience and let them know what we are focusing on. We welcome feedback and ideas from everyone. Moreover, we understand the need for measuring our success and keeping track of our progress while managing our day-to-day workflow.

As part of our A11y responsibilities, we’re also trying to improve the visibility of the British Sign Language classes hosted here at the NHSBSA by Matthew Lannigan.


What have we done?

Following the success of the GDS lab, we have decided to introduce our own budget Simulation Lab.

An accessibility simulation lab (sometimes known as an Empathy lab) is a space that allows employees and visitors to experience how people with varied impairments and abilities may interact with technology and online services.

The lab is located in the Digi Hub of our Newcastle office (Stella House) on the first floor. We’ve been following the GDS format, and if you’d like to book a visit please complete this form and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

We’ll tell you more about it in our next blog!


How accurately can we simulate the experience of people with varied impairments and abilities?

Our Simulation Lab has impairment glasses, but these don’t come close to fully replicating the reality of what it’s like to live with capability loss on a daily basis.

Simulation glasses give insight into the effects of vision loss. They help us build empathy with users and can be used to examine the visual accessibility of products and services. Simulation helps to create better, more inclusive designs and services, but it is not a substitute for proactive user research.


What’s next?

We are continuously planning future events, such as building challenges, for our colleagues. We’re also looking to cover topics such as dyslexia, invisible disabilities, and email signature awareness.