The Access Pathway is a new route to an accessible digital presence developed especially for Business Disability Forum (BDF) members.
Building on the BDF’s long-standing E-Check service, the Access Pathway is a 3-step process designed to ensure that websites and mobile applications meet best-practice and international standards for accessibility.
The Access Pathway is a benefit of BDF membership that is delivered by BDF strategic partners Freeney Williams Ltd, one of Europe’s leading disability consultancies.
What is accessibility?
An accessible digital presence is one where all digital products (websites, intranet, applications, documents, video and other content) are available to all users.
Our assessments consider two broad issues in order to review a digital product from a disabled user’s viewpoint – its accessibility and its usability.
- Accessibility considers how the technical aspects of a product such as coding and structure might affect the user who relies on assistive technology, and whether a product requires adapting to their particular needs. Accessibility is assessed against the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) V2.0.
- Usability considers how users with particular disabilities interact with the product in practice. Usability, however, has no established standards, and can only be measured against what is considered to be good practice. It is entirely possible for a product to be ‘accessible’ in terms of the WCAG standard but in practice very difficult for a disabled user, so usability testing by a panel of disabled people determines the practical usability of the product.
For ease of reference, the term accessibility is referred to when talking about the Pathway, but in reality the Pathway considers both accessibility and usability.
Accessibility in the business context
The Access Pathway recognises that for progress to be achieved and maintained, accessibility needs to be embedded in the culture of an organisation. To this end, the Access Pathway has been designed to work alongside BDF's Accessibility Maturity Model. The Pathway approaches digital accessibility in the broader business context, so the issues can be not on2ly identified but set into a comprehensive business case for change.
There are sound reasons why your digital products should be accessible to the widest possible audience, be they customers or co-workers.
- Commercial. An accessible website can increase site use, cut costs of development and maintenance, and reduce exposure to legal challenge.
- Social. Web accessibility provides improved access, interaction and social inclusion, which is a primary aspect of Corporate Social Responsibility.
- Legal. The Equality Act 2010 requires websites to be accessible, and some organisations might be subject to other legal and policy factors.
While maintaining accessibility in the digital space might be ultimately the responsibility of your IT or communications team, accessibility is an issue that must be understood by and bought into by the organisation as whole.
Ensuring your digital channels are accessible is about more than just fulfilling legal obligations or being able to 'tick a box'; both disabled and non-disabled users benefit from the improved experience that comes with having an accessible website.
The Access Pathway – structure and steps
Step 1: Determining the benchmark
The Pathway begins with a short review by an Accessibility Expert to see how a website measures up to accessibility standards and usability best practice, with organisations receiving a benchmark report at the conclusion of the review. Although an organisation is likely to have a range of digital products, the main website usually presents the public face of the organisation and is a good place to begin the benchmarking process.
In conducting over 100 reviews of websites since 2008, we have built a picture of the most common website barriers for disabled people. For example, these may be technical problems in the code that exclude keyboard users or present screenreader users with only a partial understanding of the content of a page; they may be design choices that undermine legibility; or a lack of page structure that makes navigation difficult.
The benchmark report will provide an indication of whether the website presents potential barriers to disabled users, but it is not a full audit and does not detail referenced examples of any errors. It should be considered as feedback on current performance and a pointer to further action should that be needed.
Outcome: Benchmark report.
Cost: Free to BDF members, £400 + VAT to non-members.
Step 2: Planning your Pathway
Step 2 of the Pathway provides a personal consultation with one of our Accessibility Experts. The consultant will build on the E-Check by conducting a more in-depth expert review of the website, and will then arrange a meeting or conference call to discuss the findings and the factors that will guide the next steps; these factors would typically include:
- The extent of the client’s digital portfolio (website, mobile and tablet, intranet).
- The client’s short, medium and long term objectives.
- The client’s business context and priorities.
- The role of accessibility testing: this examines technical aspects of a site such as coding and structure might affect disabled users including those who rely on assistive technology and whether a site requires adapting to their particular needs. Accessibility is measured against the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) V2.0.
- The role of disabled user testing: conducted by a panel of users with particular disabilities (such as learning difficulties, dyslexia, motor and sensory impairments, including those using assistive technology such as screenreader software).
- Requirement for review of in-house accessibility awareness, development procedures and style-guides.
- Plans to maintain the achieved level of accessibility.
Based on this discussion, we will then produce a summary of our recommendations to achieve the agreed outcomes.
Organisations that undertake Step 2 of the Pathway will also be listed on our website as an Access Pathway participant, with participation of your commitment to improving accessibility widely publicised via social media and other communications such as our Member Newsletter.
You will also receive a statement about your commitment to undertake the Access Pathway which can be used on your website, Intranet and marketing collateral.
Outcome: Outline Work Programme.
Cost: BDF members £600 + VAT, non-members £750 + VAT
Step 3 of the Pathway is in two phases.
- Phase 1 takes the outline work programme and, in discussion with the organisation, develops a detailed specification, cost and schedule for each element.
- Phase 2 sees the implementation of the programme with appropriate support from our experts.
Outcome: BDF Access Pathway accreditation and use of the Access Pathway Trustmark, which is awarded to organisations who have completed Steps 1 -3 of the Pathway and demonstrated commitment to accessibility through action.
Cost: Dependent on the constituent elements of the programme, and subject to 20% discount for BDF members.
Want to get started?
For more information about the Access Pathway or to discuss how to get started, contact Rick Williams via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 020-7403-3020.