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Home » Helping ACRO raise their Online Accessibility Standard!

Helping ACRO raise their Online Accessibility Standard!

on July 8, 2024 at 9:13am |Updated on July 8, 2024 at 9:13am ACRO Criminal Records  Office logo

What does ACRO (The Criminal Records Office) do?

ACRO perform many important functions for the public, dealing with Subject Access Requests, Applications for Police Certificates and International Child Protection Certificates, as well as Record Deletion requests.  All these required interactive forms, with the ability to upload images and documentation to support each application.

We have been working with ACRO for the last two years, helping them raise the standard of their online accessibility. This Case Study is an excellent example of how high accessibility standards can be achieved, regardless of the constraints that may exist.

Our initial findings

The original ACRO website was several years old and had basic functionality. A new website had been developed with integrated online forms and we were invited to audit the website, prior to launch, in 2022.

The design of the website itself was contemporary. Unfortunately, it also contained a substantial number of errors which meant that navigation within the website was difficult.  Some of the applications ran to 10 pages, ending in a payment page. There was no facility to save progress and return at another time. There was also a fixed time limit of 60 minutes to complete any of the forms.  This meant that the forms had to be completed within a single session and were simply not possible for my Team do achieve without significant assistance from me. 

The errors we initially uncovered included my Team members not being able to upload documents or photos themselves, as well as many of the form fields not being marked up correctly and error messages not being readable. The accessibility tester journeys were all recorded to video, edited and shared with the clients. 

It was clear that the issues with the new website were unable to be resolved quickly, post-launch. The accessibility statement I had written explained in detail what the challenges were so that disabled people would be aware of them from the outset. 

A new website strategy was developed

The following year, ACRO decided to rebuild the entire website, with all the interactive functionality, over 4 stages.

They wanted to ensure that accessibility was considered at each stage of the process and invited us to work with them and the developers from the outset. This has only been the second time that we have worked in this way and it is our belief that this is always the effective way of steering any project towards a more accessible outcome. 

The 4 stages consisted of:

  1. Holding page
  2. Website (without forms)
  3. Application forms
  4. Integrated website with Account functionality

The other 2 constraints were:

  1. The original design was kept
  2. The website needed to fully integrate with their CRM of choice

As with any project, there are always constraints as to what is technically possible and what is not but it was important to ACRO that their website was fully compliant with WCAG AA standards. 

Once Stage 2 had begun, the developers presented their initial design of the Home Page. We were able to work with them to develop an accessible menu structure, as well as help them understand what other coding improvements were necessary. We tested several different iterations of the website and, by the time Stage 2 had been completed, I was able to update the accessibility statement, stating that the website was fully compliant with WCAG 2.2 AA Standards. This is the first time I have been able to do this! It did not mean that the website was fully accessible but it did mean that it had achieved a higher standard of accessibility than most other websites and was fully compliant with UK Government requirements. 

As we moved on to working the interactive forms, it became more challenging to maintain this high standard and much of this was down to the code generated by the CRM which created each website page. However, the developers persevered and came up with solutions to most of the issues.

The last significant hurdle was removed

As we approached Stage 4, nearly all the issues had been resolved except one. This was the inability to return to the applications at different times and continue from where they had left off. Sometimes assistive software such as screen readers and voice assistive software will get frozen and require restarting, This inevitability will refresh the browser at the very least, if not restarting it completely. 

Either of these activities resulted in users losing all their work and having to start again. Of course, this would also affect anyone else who needed to refresh their screen, for whatever reason, so this needed to be addressed.

The only way you can save this kind of progress is by associating the form to an account so, in the final Stage, ACRO integrated a simple account system that was easy to register with and offered OTP authentication either via email or via an authenticator app.

There were a few issues that became apparent during the live testing which were connected to post-registration messages and the placing of some elements but most of them were resolved.

The website is now live and we are delighted to see that, whilst there are some outstanding issues, it is one of the most accessible websites that we have seen! It has certainly been a challenging project but it has also been immensely rewarding and proof positive of just what can be achieved if the desire to have the highest possible accessibility standard is there!

Visit the ACRO website

Client Testimonial

The feedback and instruction received from Clive and his team has been instrumental in the development of our new website and online content, through ensuring that the presentation and navigation of our web pages and online products are as accessible as possible for our global customer base. It is important to us as an organisation to ensure that as many people as possible are able to gain unhindered access to our online information and services. Without Clive’s enthusiasm, guidance and expertise, we would have struggled to achieve this goal. 

Clive’s personable and supportive approach combined with his enthusiasm and boundless knowledge in the field of accessibility, is invaluable for any person or organisation seeking to improve the user experience of their online content.

I highly recommend employing the services of the Access by Design Team.

Many thanks

Louise Baldwin

Senior Development Officer

ACRO Criminal Records Office