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Website accessibility is a must

We’ve been reworking a lot of our page designs to make them ‘accessible’, so that residents using screen readers and other assistive technologies can also contribute to Commonplaces. Our HS2 in Euston project has been accredited with an AA web standard for accessibility.

We already ensure that all pages work across different sized devices - from mobile to computer desktop screens. Thinking about different types of screen readers, low vision users and using voice commands to navigate and use a website is a whole other world.

GOV.UK is setting an example in the UK for more accessible websites. In a recent survey, respondents said they are using the following types of different assistive technologies. Each of these categories have multiple different software products which all work slightly differently. Imagine designing and developing something that will work with most of these.

Types of assistive technology used to access GOV.UK. Roughly 30% use a screen magnifier. 30% use a screen reader and 18% use speech recognition to navigate the website.Source: GOV.UK Assistive technology survey 2016

Reworking our designs to account for accessibility helped us improve the user experience in general. Here are our top four changes.


1. Emojis to show how you feel

Emojis are becoming part of everyday digital conversations, so why not for digital consultations too? We’ve added an option for smilies for residents to show how they feel, replacing our standard slider.

Screenshot of sentiment select using smilies


2. Simpler and shorter proposal pages

We’ve made our proposal pages shorter and reduced the number of clicks required to add comments. If you are logged in, we now display the comment form by default on the page, so that respondents can dive right in and add their views.



3. New navigation

Apart from adding required 'skip links' for screen readers, we have also made our Design Feedback menu more like a sitemap. It's now much easier for respondents to navigate your Commonplaces and find what they are looking for.

Screenshot of HS2 in Euston navigation


4. An improved editor to add news posts

Providing an accessible platform means that we also need to help our customers create accessible content. Elements to consider include how to describe hyperlinks and images. Our new text editing tool for adding news posts supports and nudges our customers to add accessible and easily understable content. Learn more about the new editor in this short 90 second video.


Fee Schmidt-Soltau

Fee Schmidt-Soltau

Design & Usability