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GDS looks at accessibility for GOV.UK



Survey shows worries about 'complicated' pages and usability of PDFs

Government Digital Service (GDS) data suggests that when it comes to assistive technology, most users of the GOV.UK website use screen magnifiers, followed by screen readers.

The results of a survey run during May into accessibility have just been published. The exercise ran for six weeks online, and some 712 completed surveys were returned.

The data provides a useful snapshot of how citizens with disabilities are finding GOV.UK. For example, a “significant” number of users told GDS that overall they are happy with the level of accessibility on GOV.UK; some even gave it high praise due to the clean and simple design.

However, some users said they found the black text on a white background difficult to read, while other users reported usability issues with ‘start now’ pages.

That seems to be an issue, says GDS, “as the things you need to know before you start appear after the 'Start Now’ button, which can be missed by screen reader and screen magnification users”.

Too complicated

Several users reported that the search results page is too complicated, as there are too many options to navigate. Some users felt that the interface should be "cleaner", to easily find the search results, with some respondents suggesting an option to display advanced features for those who need more granularity when filtering.

Finally, GDS says it has learnt that many assistive technology users found PDFs hard to use, and would prefer content to be in HTML instead.

In terms of specific results, 30% of users told the people behind GOV.UK that they use a screen magnifier, followed very closely by a screen reader (29%). Speech recognition technology is utilised by 18%, followed by 15% who use some sort of readability aid.

38% of those magnifiers have screen reader capabilities, adds GDS.

In terms of specific products being used, it looks like the hands down winner is the ZoomText magnifier/reader, which positions itself as a fully integrated magnification and screen reading program that enlarges, enhances and reads aloud everything on the computer screen. ZoomText comes in at 54% of identified screen magnifier products, well ahead of the next mentioned by respondents, Supernova.

29% of assistive technology users are accessing GOV.UK with a screen reader, adds GDS, with the most commonly used is JAWS, followed by VoiceOver. The majority is this usage is happening via Apple’s iOS, it seems - 72%.

In speech recognition terms, Dragon Naturallyspeaking for Windows has the highest usage in this category. The majority of users are still running version 12, GDS adds.

Chrome dominant

In browser terms, Google Chrome appears to be the dominant web browser, with JAWS with Internet explorer 11 and VoiceOver with Safari being the two most common tech combinations.

In terms of next steps, GDS says it is now using the survey results to help it decide which assistive technologies it will use to test GOV.UK and advise other departments to test with.

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