Royal Mail: Webaccessibility explained

Setting the scene

Disabled people shop online. For 23% of disabled people surveyed recently it's the way they shop most often (Employers’ Forum on Disability). In 2008 Royal Mail Group engaged Shaw Trust to review its websites in respect of accessibility to disabled and disadvantaged people, particularly those using assistive technology. The review indicated that the websites required significant improvements before Shaw Trust could give their accreditation. An updated set of accessibility guidelines was developed which, if applied, would lead to Shaw Trust’s accreditation.

Requirement

Royal Mail Group needed to convey its new web accessibility guidelines to all its in-house and agency web developers. They wanted to do so in an imaginative way that would capture the delegates’ interest and ensure that they really understood the benefits to customers of a truly accessible website.

Solution

Royal Mail Group wanted to give IT colleagues first hand experience of how disabled people use the web. They asked Mary-Anne to organise for them a Web accessibility event for their IT colleagues and suppliers. Mary-Anne worked closely with key personnel in Royal Mail Group to develop a programme outline which she then expanded and delivered.

The key to the success of this event was the involvement of disabled people as motivational speakers, and as web users. The web user interaction took the form of ‘speed dating’ with delegates spending 10 minutes with one disabled web user before moving onto another. All web users were on-line and able to access and demonstrate accessible and inaccessible websites, and the issues that they faced relevant to their impairment and assistive technology.

Royal Mail Group chose Mary-Anne because they were confident that she fully understood both the client’s and the disabled participants’ needs. That she would deliver an event that would be fully inclusive and that her experience would enable her to source and brief appropriate disabled participants.

Benefit

The client was delighted with the reaction of the delegates and felt that the event had achieved its goal. Royal Mail Group knows that having an accessible websites is important for its business. It helps them reach new markets, maximise employee engagement and productivity, provide high quality products and services, improve supply chain management and build partner and community relations.

The Post Office website has now received accreditation from the Shaw Trust. Royal Mail and Parcelforce websites are aiming for accreditation in 2010.

Delegates feedback:

 

  •  "Exceeded all my expectations"

  • "Very inspiring and eye opening"

  • "The most ‘real’ experience I have had on disability"

  • "The theory actually came to life"

  • "I didn’t know what I didn’t know – this is a first step for me on a longer journey"