Designing services fit for users with accessibility needs is important and necessary. A new EU Directive reinforces this importance, and will mean public sector websites and apps must be accessible to everyone, especially users with disabilities.
Here’s a few resources I’ve found useful when thinking about accessibility:
1) Look at the accessibility posters created by Home Office. It’s a simple way of making sure your service is accessible. Your halfway there if you follow the posters.
2) There’s some basic things you can test yourself such as:
Being able to navigate your service with a keyboard. See link from AbilityNet also.
Using free screen reading tools e.g. on Windows (NVDA), on Mac (VoiceOver).
Use assistive software for people with color blindness e.g. http://colororacle.org/
3) I recommend joining the cross government accessibility communities. They are an excellent resource. Feel free to pose your questions there especially around recruiting users with accessibility needs or using charities.
They will be able to point you to friendly:
Organizations for specific disabilities or conditions
College and university programs for students with disabilities
Local disability-related support groups
Local or regional government rehabilitation or disability services departments
Seniors organizations and local senior centers
Independent living organizations
3) Use 18F’s (America’s government digital agency) tailored accessibility guide for service roles. Comprehensive.
4) Use GOV.UK design patterns. These patterns have been tested with a whole set of users, especially those with accessibility needs. Your service does not need to look like GOV.UK, but you can use it as a frame of reference.
5) If you have not come across users with accessibility needs. These are example profiles of people with accessibility needs.
6) I recommend speaking to GDS’s accessibility team. They can point you to the right places. For example, a lot of the software I mentioned above (plus more), GDS would have access to. They have set up an ‘empathy lab’ at GDS, which anyone is welcome to use. Here you can test your service using accessibility software.
7) You can procure an accessibility audit (determines whether your service meets accessibility standards) from digital marketplace.
8) Alternatively you can use a recruitment agency to help you recruit users to speak to.
9) Assistive technology tools you can test with at no cost.
This, short accessibility testing guide from Bulb energy is handy. A useful reference when you are conducting your own tests.
Here’s a guide to whole bunch of accessibility resources across government.
When designing services, it’s better to think about accessibility from the start rather than retroactively making your service conform to accessibility standards.
I hope this helps!