Our Senior Digital Editor, Rebecca Cryan, talks about accessibility at Macmillan and our most recent audit.
What is the importance of accessibility at Macmillan Cancer Support?
We consider our website to be a digital service. Our cancer information, our online community and content like the financial guidance tool need to be accessible to everyone. Web accessibility is vitally important to us meeting our organisational aim of being there for everyone affected by cancer.
It’s also important that all the ways people can give to Macmillan are easy too. We don’t receive any government funding so we can only provide our services to people thanks to the generosity of our donors. Online giving is an expanding proportion of our donations portfolio with over 17% of all money raised by Macmillan in 2017 coming from online. Accessible forms and sites mean that it’s easier for everyone to donate to us. Developing accessible sites is also more cost-effective in the long run, meaning that we’re using our budget in the most responsible way, which is obviously a key consideration for a charity.
Since people are living longer with cancer, our demographic is skewing older, which is also a segment of the population more likely to have accessibility needs. So, accessibility is important to make sure we’re providing for our specific audiences.
However, it’s important to note that making our content accessible doesn’t just benefit our disabled users, it makes it more usable for everyone using the site. Logical navigation makes it easier for everyone to find what they’re looking for; correct mark-up makes the site perform better and faster, across all devices; proper labelling and use of alt-text improves SEO. So there are many benefits to making our sites accessible. It’s important to us for a range of reasons: social, legal, financial and technical.
What have you done recently to improve accessibility at Macmillan?
Over the last year we’ve really focused on helping people across the organisation understand why accessibility is important and how they can support our aims. We’ve started a working group made up of front-end developers, UX/UI designers, graphic designers, content creators and editors. These people are all involved in the production of a piece of content and can all do their bit at their touch-point with the content.
We’ve also worked on a policy so we can be really clear about what accessible means to Macmillan and the minimum standards we expect of content produced both in- and externally.
In order for us to move towards having fully accessible digital products, we need everyone to be on board and understand what they can do to make it happen. Accessibility is everyone’s job.
Why do we conduct accessibility audits?
We audit to check how we’re doing against Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). This is a globally recognised set of standards for creating accessible websites. For us it’s the best way of understanding where we’re doing well and what needs more work.
We use an agency called Nomensa to perform formal audits for us. They are extremely thorough, performing over 200 manual tests per page. We tend to select pages which are representative of a wide range of our content and audit those, so we can apply the results as widely as possible. Day-to-day we perform accessibility checks on all new and updated content; it’s a part of lots of people’s jobs including developers, designers, and editors.
When do we audit?
We tend to audit at different times, for different reasons. Sometimes we’ll do an audit on a specific section which we plan to dedicate significant resource to over the next few months. This gives us a clear awareness of the issues and strengths before we start work.
Sometimes we’ll audit content of strategic significance such as our forms to make sure we’re flagging any potential issues. We then use the results to form a business case for making changes to these areas.
What were the key elements looked at in our most recent audit?
As I mentioned, Nomensa do over 200 manual tests per page so they highlight a really broad range of issues. We asked them to look at our Donate, Events and In Your Area sections where they discovered we were missing some text alternatives on images and some interactive page elements were not keyboard accessible.
We also don’t have a skip-to-content link allowing users to bypass the navigation and get straight into the page content.
These findings give us a really clear plan for things to work on, to make sure our digital sites are available to everyone who needs them.