To ensure that our customers get the most out of their digital tools and services, these services must be accessible. One challenge in achieving this in PDS has been the different levels of accessibility knowledge among our customer-facing teams. This has meant that we are not always meeting customers’ accessibility needs with the best advice and support. We wanted to change that. We also wanted to raise awareness of digital accessibility across Parliament.
To that end, a group of colleagues in customer-facing roles decided that a network of accessibility champions would be a simple way to learn more about accessibility and share knowledge between colleagues in PDS.
The purpose of an accessibility champions network
The network is made up of 35 volunteers from teams across Parliament. Some are IT professionals, while others have more experience dealing directly with customers. This variety of experience has helped to shape the network and inform our mission to look at customer issues from new angles.
The network of accessibility champions is an additional way to informally expand accessibility improvement work in PDS, building on the work done by some of our major projects.
The network meets monthly to discuss any news or developments in the accessibility area, both in Parliament and the wider world. We provide advice to each other on accessibility queries, and occasionally have demonstrations, training or talks on accessibility.
Simple but real improvements
Our work has led to simple but real improvements. For example, we were receiving regular queries about reducing the blue light of screens, so we shared information on inbuilt tools and how to apply settings to help. This aided individuals who experience migraines and those with visual impairments.
We have helped colleagues in projects to think about inclusion issues – for example, ensuring that colleagues with hearing impairments are able to interact with our IT Support Desk by providing alternative channels to phone calls. We’ve also created an accessible communications guide to ensure that communications within PDS and to our customers are accessible.
Alongside these practical steps we aim to raise the profile of digital accessibility. We have established a group of senior leaders in PDS who meet monthly to discuss accessibility and ensure that it is prioritised at a high level. Network colleagues attend meetings across PDS to share our work.
Overall, I’m very proud to see network members championing accessibility in their roles. The cultural change and awareness that they have brought about so far has been invaluable, and improved the digital services that we offer everyone in Parliament.
If you’re interested in working with our customer-facing teams, see our latest vacancies.