The Importance of Having an Accessible Website

At least 1 in 5 people in the UK have a long term illness, impairment or disability and many more have a temporary disability which can make it incredibly difficult, if not impossible to access online content. Amanda Matthews is the accessibility lead at PrimarySite and is passionate about supporting and educating clients to deliver a positive user experience for their website visitors.

Making a website accessible, enables it to be used by as many people as possible and can include simple steps such as ensuring the content and design is clear and simple. Many disabilities can be ‘hidden’ and so making sure everyone has a good user experience and adaptions are made where possible is really important. 

Accessibility is an ongoing focus for PrimarySite and we’re passionate about supporting our clients to ensure their websites are accessible and making recommendations where necessary. Introducing a high visibility mode on all new sites is just one of the ways PrimarySite is showing their commitment to this, alongside providing key accessibility features as standard with all School and Trust websites. 

Having a condition myself that affects my website use makes me even more passionate about my role as accessibility lead and means I understand the key challenges different service users face on a daily basis. 

Accessibility guidelines and what they mean for Primary and Secondary Schools

The accessibility regulations state that you must make your website or mobile app accessible by making it ‘perceivable, operable, understandable and robust and those service providers must consider ‘reasonable adjustments’ for disabled people. Although Primary and Secondary Schools are partially exempt from these regulations (except for the content people need in order to use their services) we know that like PrimarySite our clients are passionate about ensuring the best education information is accessible to all. 

With School websites becoming a crucial tool for accessing and sharing key information and providing essential online learning support to both pupils and parents, it’s more important than ever that everyone has the best possible user experience. 

Why is it important to make a website accessible? 

School populations are incredibly diverse and inclusivity is key for ensuring everyone has access to the same information.  Investing the time and effort into ensuring your website is accessible will show your users that you care about them and are passionate about providing a quality service.

No-one should have to struggle to access the essential information they need. Making your website accessible gives your users a good experience and ultimately provides a great customers’ journey.

Things to consider when making your website accessible

Simple tweaks can make a big difference and help make your website accessible for your users, some examples include:

  • Images – where images are used on your website to form part of a story, providing a description of what’s going on in the picture can help significantly. This can then be read out by a screen reader, converted to braille or other text formats. When writing these descriptive statements avoid colour descriptors, provide essential information and be to the point. 
  • Colours – bright colours such as red and yellow can be difficult to read in text format on white or pale colour background. By making minor tweaks and using tools such as WebAIM you can test if the colour combination is going to be appropriate. 
  • Documents – many older PDFs don’t support accessibility. By updating to newer PDF formats accessibility will already be built-in but may not be appropriate for everyone so consider alternative solutions such as print outs and larger fonts.

What accessibility features does PrimarySite provide?

As the accessibility lead at PrimarySite, I’m responsible for ensuring our Trust and School websites deliver the best possible accessibility journey for their users and that we’re leading the way in the education sector. All of our School and Trust websites, therefore, come with the following features: 

  • High visibility mode  this provides a simplified version of the website in bright contrasting colours that allows users who may have difficulty with colours contrasting and small font sizes.
  • Descriptive text on images  within the text editor of the website, each image has the ability to have an alternative descriptive segment added to effectively describe the image. This allows a user who may have sight issues to view the content in a text format and understand what is happening. 
  • Accessibility statement  Nurseries, primary and secondary Schools are not legally required to be fully accessible but the creation of an accessibility statement is important. This includes key information and the ability for users to be able to contact the school for support if necessary.
  • Colours – all colours provided on the website will hit the Web Accessibility In Mind (WebAIM) classification for 2.1 AA – the new International accessibility standard. 

Accessibility is an ongoing task requiring regular attention and it’s not something you’ll be able to fix for everyone. Being aware of who uses your website, how they do this and their key requirements will help you to adapt your approach and provide supporting documentation where needed. Talk to your users, don’t assume making small tweaks will suit everyone. Do your research, listen to special requests and if in doubt ask us for advice and support. We’re constantly working to the latest guidelines and upcoming changes and so we know how these might impact the features and technical ability of your School or Trust website and are well equipped to support you.

For more information or advice on how you can make your School or Trust website accessible, contact our helpful team.