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Sunday, July 21, 2024

H&H Reeds build powerful charity website accessible to all

With at least 1 in 5 people in the UK having a long-term illness, impairment or disability, catering for all their needs online is increasingly being recognised as an essential website function.

Carlisle based H&H Reeds have recently worked with social housing charity, Acis Group, to create a comprehensive, cutting edge new website that meets the statutory requirements to make digital services, websites, and apps accessible to everyone.

Public sector bodies including charity organisations, must by law adhere to accessibility requirements, since people may not have a choice when using a public sector website or app.  To meet all the accessibility requirements, the H&H Reeds team implemented a number of practices within the design and development processes, including using colours that are accessible to those with visual impairments and ensuring the site is compatible with text-to-speech readers.

Although this requirement doesn’t currently extend to private companies, the principles of the accessibility regulation make it a good policy for all websites to follow and this requirement is expected to become mandatory for all websites in the near future.

“Accessible sites work better for everyone,” says Steven Hart, Senior UX Designer. “They are often faster and even rank higher in search engines. But accessibility in UX design is foremost about people and the barriers they face when trying to interact with your product. Focusing on the user’s journey and developing their experience ensures the most amount of people can interact with your website / product. Designing functional, fully accessible websites that also look amazing is a challenge, but one we are happy to take on.

For a charity that provides over 7,000 homes for residents across the East Midlands, Yorkshire, and the Humber, the Acis website needed to comply with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.1 AA). So the challenge for the H&H Reeds web design team was to build a comprehensive resource that was easy to use for the full range of Acis customers, including users with impairments to their vision, hearing, mobility, and thinking and understanding.

The new Acis website needed to incorporate three existing separate sites and create a portal for Housing Developments. The brief included a need for e-commerce capability, lead generation tools and a chatbot, and optimising site speed was a fundamental priority, giving users a seamless experience and simple, easy interaction with content.

Large organisations that don’t currently have the requirement to improve accessibility are already finding that it is in their own best interests, and that of their clients, to do so. There is also an overlap with discrimination policies for companies that have a careers section on their web site; they need to make sure their hire policies are fair and equal, and the website has to reflect that too.

“There is a wide range of improvements that can be made to extend website accessibility, including providing text alternatives for photos and non-text content (ALT text), transcripts for audio and video and captions, a logical and clear structure for navigation and reading by a screen reader, and making sure every feature can be used when text size is increased,” says Steven.

Acis Group is a charity that prides itself on the motto of “going beyond bricks and mortar” to create opportunities for people to lead better lives. The group also offers a variety of other associated services, including certified training programs designed to help candidates to pick up new skills and qualifications, as well as providing a home adaptations service to help people enhance their independence.

The NHS estimates that 1 in every 10 people in the UK has some degree of dyslexia, a common learning difficulty which causes problems with reading, writing, and spelling. According to the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) over 2 million people in the UK are living with sight loss, and around 3 million people suffer from colour blindness.

Read more about the project here: https://hhreeds.co.uk/our-work/acis-group/

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