Public Sector Websites Need to be More Inclusive
Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen a significant rise in public sector organisations that use our web accessibility software. In the last 6 months alone we have seen a 20% increase in the need for online support.
2021 has already been dubbed ‘The Year of Accessibility’. Digital inclusion factors rank high in priorities for business development, and with more and more people relying upon online information, those in the public sector are under increasing pressure to keep their users updated with all of the relevant information and news.
Why is Website Accessibility So Important in the Public Sector?
The government expects that public sector websites and mobile apps meet accessibility standards by complying with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. Yet, recent research by Ariadne Web Magazine shows that a significant percentage of local authority website home pages still aren’t accessible to people with disabilities, and far too many other public sector websites don’t meet baseline accessibility standards either.
Making sure a website is accessible and inclusive to all users is important for any business, but by the very nature of the services offered and the functions served by public sector bodies, it is arguably even more important in this case. There are several factors that public sector organisations need to be aware of.
Equal Access to information
We tend to think of the internet as a place where everyone has instant access to the information they need at all times, but that’s simply not the case. Here in Australia, the Institute of Health and Welfare estimates that one in six people has a disability that means they struggle to access information online. Examples include:
- Visual impairments
- Learning difficulties
- Literacy and language barriers
- Neurological disorders
- Developmental disorders
- Physical disabilities
- Temporary disabilities
Customers in Vulnerable Circumstances
Any customers who struggle with one or more of the issues listed above can be considered vulnerable, as any inequality in access to information leads to an inequality of access to services. Plus, in challenging circumstances, vulnerability levels increase and those with accessibility needs fall further through the cracks as they struggle to keep up to date with changing information.
Our Aging Population
As the ageing population increases, so too does the percentage of the entire population with disabilities, visual impairments, and hearing loss. The internet gives elderly people the ability to connect with relatives and friends on a regular basis and is an important tool in allowing senior citizens to lead independent lives.
The COVID-19 Effect
With many people confined to their homes, it has never been more critical that websites account for all users, including those with disabilities and accessibility barriers. Essentially, this has changed the priority of web accessibility to be something that has to be done, rather than something that should be done. In 2020, the impact of COVID-19 was evident, and we witnessed a surge in toolbar usage of over 55%.
Helping Self-Serving Accounts
With the continued closure of many face-to-face service centres during the COVID-19 pandemic, call centre teams have struggled to service the influx of callers. Wait times have been at an all-time high, and many consumers have struggled to reach an operator at all. Providing more practical and efficient ways for customers to communicate online can help avoid situations like this.
Public Sector Data Trends
Providing accessible websites is the best way to guarantee inclusion and ensure consumers do not become more vulnerable or excluded from the information, services, and support networks they need. Recite Me is here to help all public sector businesses and organisations to communicate information more effectively by making websites accessible and inclusive of all users. Over the last calendar year, we have helped many different organisations within the public sector to achieve this.
We can install our assistive toolbar across the full digital landscape of educational organisations, not just the main website. This includes online learning platforms, intranets, and communication portals. We’re proud to assist a number of colleges and universities in providing an inclusive experience.
As education providers switched to online learning models throughout 2020 and 2021, the Recite Me toolbar was regularly opened by more than 18,000 students per month. In just one year, over 3.7 million
“The University of London is committed to providing an inclusive and accessible online experience. Recite Me enables us to provide additional online tools and services for those visiting our website and increase the level of accessibility quickly and easily.”
Mark Harrison, Head of Inclusion, University of London
Local authorities are responsible for a wide range of community provisions, including housing, traffic schemes, voting systems, recreation, environmental projects, and amenities like trash collection. We already work with a growing number of local authorities so that residents are not left in the dark about local rules, regulations, and what is going on in their communities.
At the start of the first lockdown, Recite Me usage on local authority sites increased by 87%. Our latest figures suggest usage by over 95,000 unique users accessing nearly half a million barrier-free web pages using Recite Me.
“We really want to meet the needs of the people who live and work in our area, and we believe the tools Recite me offer helps us achieve this.”
Ian Heslop, Digital and Web Manager, Preston Councils
Having access to public sector services like the police, fire brigade, and ambulance are essential to the
wellbeing of our society - and even more essential is the opportunity for equal access.
"It is hugely important for us as an organisation to be accessible to the public we serve. Our website holds a lot of information which everyone should be able to access easily. Thanks to the Recite Me Toolbar, we have made vast strides in making our website more accessible”.
Clare Kelly, Chief Executive, Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner
Health services across Australia have been in high demand due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Healthcare websites are the gateway where people can access vital information during a time where people are unable to leave their homes. Therefore it is paramount that the information is easily accessible. Last year, over 50,000 people used Recite Me accessibility and language options to aid their online healthcare journey.
How Accessibility Technology Helps
Software like the Recite Me assistive toolbar promotes inclusivity by allowing people to access websites
in a way that is best suited to them. Functions include:
- Fully customisable text size, font, and spacing
- The ability to change text colour and background colour contrasts
- A screen mask to provide colour tinting and block visual clutter
- Additional reading aids such as an on-screen ruler
- Text-to-speech functions in 35 languages
- Having text read aloud at varying speeds
- A real-time translation feature catering to over 100 languages
- A built-in dictionary and thesaurus
- A “text-only” mode that strips away graphics and other page clutter
These functions account for singular alterations and also more complex scenarios where users may require multiple adjustments for ease of use. By facilitating this, website owners are able to remove barriers and allow for equal access for everyone.
Is website Accessibility on YOUR list of priorities for 2021? We hope so! If you’d like more information about our web accessibility services, please get in touch with our team for an informal chat about how we can help. Alternatively, you can book an online demo of our toolbar in action. Together, we can make a difference and provide everyone with equal access to vital information online.