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GDS publishes ‘designing for accessibility’ guidance



Want to be more accessible? Use of good colour contrasts, legible font sizes and linear, logical layouts really help – but that’s not all that good public sector website designers can be doing

For example, sites can be too restrictive for some users simply by assuming that the primary input device will be a mouse – which immediately means users with motor disabilities will be at a disadvantage, especially if precise movements are required by your workflow, whereas keyboard use is much easier. 

Another example: well-structured content using appropriate HTML tags really helps screen readers by tabbing through content – so using <h1> tags for a header, as opposed to simply making the font bigger and the weight bold, helps screen readers structure the content more effectively, delivering much higher user understanding. 

That’s just some of the advice on a new GDS blog by accessibility consultant Karwai Pun, part of an accessibility group at Home Office Digital, whose work she is now sharing. 

Dos and don'ts

Pun, whose work concentrates on helping users with autism, outlines at top level an extensive set of accessibility “dos and don’ts” – or in her terms, a set of “general guidelines and best design practices” for making digital services as accessible as possible.

Pun has been working out how to help users with low vision, or who are deaf and hard of hearing, have dyslexia, motor disabilities or who might be on the autistic spectrum, as well as users of screen readers. Advice for all these categories of disability have been collated by her team at Home Office Digital into a set of six highly visual posters

Pun talks about the journey that led to the posters’ release, such as the struggle to work with ostensibly contradictory accessibility advice: “Using high, bright contrast was advised for some (such as those with low vision), although some users on the autistic spectrum would prefer the contrast not to be as bright or highly contrasted,” she admits. 

As a result, the posters should be considered more as guidance than “overly prescriptive,” she concludes – adding that, “It’s always worth testing your designs with users and finding the right balance, making compromises that can best suit the users’ needs.” 

The new posters are being distributed across government for feedback and were also shared at a recent Home Office Digital ‘away day’ in the form, she adds.  

“Understanding accessibility through design means we can build better services for everyone, whatever their access need,” Pun reminds us.

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