A few weeks ago, four members of the User Research team took a long train ride to Neath in Wales. Our destination was the Digital Accessibility Centre (DAC) there. DAC have been working with us to do accessibility testing for our digital services.
What we saw
We'd asked DAC to do some testing on the Members' pages of the beta website and we went to see how they did it. Five members of the team have different disabilities and use different types of assistive technologies so they invited us to sit with them.
The team use a variety of assistive technologies including screen readers, voice recognition software, and screen magnification. They showed us how they interact with beta.parliament.uk while the four of us huddled round and watched.
What we learnt
They had a positive experience of the test site overall, as many of the issues identified in the previous round of testing have been successfully updated.
Better alt text
But the DAC did identify some issues. Users with visual impairments identified some difficulties using screen readers due to images with absent, duplicate or non-descriptive alternative text (alt text).
This means that users of screen readers:
- may not know there’s an image on the page
- be confused as they think there’s the same image on the page more than once
- know there’s an image on the page but not know what it is
Descriptive links and titles
Links throughout the test pages were non-descriptive or had duplicated link text. Some links took users to different destinations and other links navigated users to the same location. Links in some areas of the process were unclear.
Links should be concise and descriptive about their destination. They shouldn’t contain generic text such as “click here” or “more” and lengthy URLs should be avoided. Using the same text in a link should be avoided where links lead to different destinations.
Page titles should also be descriptive. For example, the page title should be ‘Constituency of Aberavon’ rather than just ‘Aberavon.’
Skip to content links
A “skip to content” link allows assistive technology users to skip to the main content of the website without the need to tab through long lists of navigational links. It’s simple to implement and is a great enhancement for site accessibility. However, the skip links option when browsing via Internet Explorer and iOS, the iPhone operating system, doesn’t function as expected.
DAC presented their findings back to the product team after the testing. The team will now need to work on the recommendations to make sure that users of assistive technology are able to understand what information the page is trying to communicate.
It was invaluable to see expert users of assistive technologies interacting with our site and how they’re conducting accessibility testing at DAC. I would encourage everyone to make the journey to DAC when their product is being accessibility tested to improve their understanding of what makes a good experience for users of assistive technologies.
Many thanks to DAC for hosting us.
For more information email Dana Demin.