Website Accessibility Audit for Arun District Council
A large website with a lot of functionality!
We have recently completed an audit for Arun District Council. Their website contained a large amount of information and had been revamped a year ago. There was a lot of functionality to test, including:
- Payment Portal
- Refuse Collection enquiry
- Planning enquiries
- Council Meetings, some of whom were live-streamed
- Booking appointments
- Residents Survey
Some of this functionality was outsourced to 3rd party applications, and some of it was developed by the Council’s Website Development Team.
Our Team’s feedback was generally very positive!
Our team (Iona, Krista, Mede and Sara) each had a series of tasks I had set for them. Given the experiences they often have with our audits, where a lot of basic functionality just does not work, their feedback was generally very positive. They were able to make card payments, find out which day their bins would be collected and complete the resident’s survey without too much difficulty. We were very pleased to see how much thought had already gone into the website.
Some challenges began to arise
Unfortunately, it was not possible to book an appointment using assistive technology such as a screen reader or voice navigation. The appointment days and times were all clearly presented but it was just not possible to select a date or time slot without using a mouse and was difficult to do with dictation software. This was a great pity, as the previous areas of the website functioned very well with a screen reader keyboard and quite well with dictation software.
When it came to Planning, however, it was far more challenging. PDF documents are usually an issue with most websites, as they are often inaccessible. It was the same with this website. Lists of Planning Applications contained links to the individual applications on a separate area of the website but it was not possible to select them with a screen reader or with dictation software.
There were other ways to find individual planning applications and our team were able to access the Portal, which had been bought in from an external provider. Links were provided down the left-hand side to individual documents but they were difficult to select.
When they were selected, the PDF document would appear in the right-hand side of the screen. This was challenging to navigate, in fact, had our fab Team not been doing this specifically as an Audit, they would have given up much earlier and looked for a phone number instead!
Live streams were a great feature if you could use a mouse!
The area of the website that contained information regarding live streams of council meetings had also been provided by an external provider. The look and feel of it was very different to the main website, which used a good text size and was clearly laid out.
The meetings that were live-streamed had a video player on the right-hand side of the page It was again challenging to be operated effectively with a screen reader and, with voice dictation the video playback function was rather limited. It was possible to play a video but it was not possible to skip forward, back or even stop it.
A good effort to include colour contrast but…
The web developers had created two colour contrast options, via an accessibility panel that floated in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen. Offering colour contrast options is important as neurodivergent people often find white backgrounds difficult to use, it can cause headaches and tiredness.
Unfortunately, there were still areas where there were white backgrounds present and what was far worse, the second colour contrast option was a combination of colours that was guaranteed to cause a headache for anyone, regardless of whether they were neurodivergent or not!
There was a low level of detectable accessibility errors, as far as the automated side of our audit was concerned and the accessibility statement that has been written previously did not list them, it just listed general issues with the website.
Our job is to find an alternative, there is usually a way!
With every audit we do, we believe that it is important to list the accessibility errors, just to be transparent. The previous accessibility statement stated the costs of resolving these issues would be too high and stated that it fell under the Disproportionate Burden definition.
I understand this but, in my report, I suggested other simple changes that could be made that would offer disabled people an alternative way of getting the information. This, for me, is the crux of the matter and why my audits are so important to me.
They give me the opportunity to think of alternatives (often at minimal cost) that could be made available to disabled people, to enable them to get the information they want. That, after all, is why they go to a website in the first place. To get information. Just like everyone else.
We were delighted to receive the following testimonial from Paul Symes, Head of Technology & Digital at Arun District Council.
"We have had an independent audit carried out of the site and updated our ‘Accessibility Statement’.
The audit was really good as it was not just a technical and manual check but also used real people with accessibility issues and we learnt a lot from playing back the recordings. A couple of comments we felt very positive about where ‘generally, my Team found this one of the best websites they have tested’ and ‘it is not possible for any single website to meet everyone’s needs and I wish to congratulate the Council on their efforts so far, compared to all the other websites we have audited, this is by far the most accessible’."
Changing the world takes effort!
This is the most enjoyable part of what I do. It is demanding, and time-consuming but also extremely satisfying. Changing the world, one website at a time is always going to be like this, I suppose and I love it!
Access by Design