Digital practitioners are being placed at the centre of new comprehensive guidance on how to meet the New Zealand Government Web Accessibility Standard.
The accessibility guidance will be organised around roles rather than requirements, making it easier for practitioners to focus on what they need to know to make different types of web content accessible — when they need to know it.
The idea, however, is not to create new guidance from scratch, but rather to curate and link to existing quality guidance across the web that addresses the requirements in the Web Accessibility Standard.
While it’s being provided to help improve the accessibility of government information and services, it will be useful to anyone delivering accessible digital content in New Zealand, whether they’re in the public or private sector.
This work is being delivered by the Digital Public Service branch at the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA).
Call for feedback from designers and developers
We’d really value feedback from digital practitioners on our thinking so far.
If you’re responsible for designing or building web content, tell us what accessibility guidance is important to you.
Take the questionnaire: Web accessibility guidance for designers and developers.
The deadline for feedback is 5pm on Friday 25 September.
Why do we need more guidance?
Based on the Web Standards Self-assessments of 2011, 2014 and 2017, government websites continue to struggle to meet the Web Accessibility Standard, which is based on the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1.
Many government practitioners and vendors consistently display low awareness of what’s required to make digital information and services accessible to all. A survey conducted in 2019 shows that many practitioners have difficulty understanding WCAG requirements as well as basic accessibility practices, and that they’re calling for support.
While there are thousands of web pages across the world explaining WCAG, New Zealand practitioners say that they don’t always know which guidance is relevant to their work, or whether they can trust that the guidance is correct and covers New Zealand accessibility requirements.
Government practitioners want guidance that acts as a central resource in New Zealand — coming from government because accessibility is mandated by government.
We’ve taken a user-centred design approach to explore the problem from a practitioner perspective.
Three research questions
The following 3 research questions are helping to inform the direction of the guidance.
How might we help practitioners to:
- quickly understand what’s required to make their web content work accessible
- easily incorporate critical accessibility techniques into their everyday tasks
- clearly identify the best practice guidance that’s already out there?
To identify the barriers for practitioners and the gaps in the Web Standards guidance provided on Digital.govt.nz, we’ve conducted the following research:
- an environmental scan of digital accessibility guidance available on the web
- an analysis of practitioner needs (surveys, reports and website analytics).
The main themes from the research show practitioners are looking for:
- comprehensive, easy-to-understand guidance for the web content they typically design and build
- a list of accessibility practices that specifically relate to their role
- the ability to quickly filter for the accessibility guidance they need
- a choice in the way they can filter for the guidance.
This work has led us to propose a solution that:
- organises the guidance around the core roles in a digital product team
- maps common types of web content to discrete WCAG success criteria and critical accessibility knowledge areas.
Organising the guidance around roles
So far, we’ve identified 8 core roles that are responsible for the accessibility of a digital product, and we’ve divided them into 2 main types.
Roles with influence
The core roles that significantly influence whether the accessibility work gets done are:
- business stakeholder / senior manager
- product owner / project manager
- user researcher
- information architect
- QA tester / analyst.
They make sure accessibility work is:
- supported by providing accessibility expertise, tools and training
- baked into the product lifecycle
- validated through user research with people of diverse abilities
- included as part of quality assurance.
Roles with direct impact
The core roles that do the design and development work that directly impacts the accessibility of web content are:
- user interface (UI) / visual designer
- content designer.
Why aren’t some roles included?
Some roles, like UX designer or UX architect, are not included in the list because these are more overarching roles that, depending on their area of focus, encompass the skillsets and responsibilities of one or more of the core roles already identified.
Providing an A–Z list of common web content types
The intent is that the guidance will provide an A–Z list of a wide range of typical web content types (for example, accordions, buttons, videos), with accessibility considerations and techniques for each one. Practitioners will be able to filter the guidance by their role, allowing them to identify and focus on the aspects of accessibility that they can directly affect.
So far, the guidance identifies more than 40 web content types. It’s fully expected that the list will grow over time.
For each web content type, we intend to provide the following guidance:
- how to make it accessible
- what good looks like (examples)
- who benefits from this work
- how to test that the work’s been done right
- which WCAG success criteria are especially relevant to this web content type.
Where this guidance will be published
The guidance will be published incrementally, starting in late 2020, on Digital.govt.nz.
Background to this project
This work to support digital practitioners to meet the Web Accessibility Standard aligns with the Government’s current initiatives around digital inclusion and diversity. It also supports the new Strategy for a Digital Public Service and the Government’s commitment to make more services and information available online.
Non-compliance with the Standard reduces access for disabled people and others to government online information and services, and poses a significant risk to government organisations from legal, fiscal, and ethical standpoints.
Meeting the Web Accessibility Standard is also 1 of the primary outcomes of the Accessibility Charter, which has been signed by core government organisations.