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Link Group / GESB Online Accessibility Web Auditing and Training Project

Information solutions company, Link Group, was about to undertake an upgrade of a Member Online website for their client, the WA Government Employees Super Board (GESB.com.au). Link Group wanted to use a reputable independent NFP organisation to conduct an accessibility audit while the site was still in development. They sought to work with an organisation that had a focus on all disability, a real interest in advocacy, and backed by workable processes – rather than dealing with a one-person operation, or a For-Profit Enterprise. Centre for Inclusive Design was appointed after a review and began work in late 2016. All facets of the project were completed in May 2017, on budget and within the required timeframe.

About Link Group

Link Group administers financial ownership data and drives user engagement, analysis and insight through technology. They deliver complete solutions for companies, Government utilities, large asset owners and trustees across the globe, and is the largest provider of services in Australia's superannuation fund administration industry, which services the fourth largest pension pool in the world, based on funds under management.

Key project drivers

There were two key drivers for the project. The first driver was to ensure that the soon to be upgraded online portal for GESB.com.au would be accessible and compliant with WCAG 2.0 Level AA standards. The second driver was to upskill internal teams in web accessibility, so they could gain the expertise to perform web auditing and accessibility remediation themselves.

Right from the start, Link Group was very concerned about their chances of meeting WCAG 2.0 before their Member Online website launched, and they were very keen for CfID to provide assistance and advice as soon as possible. Due to a tight timeframe, it was agreed that Centre for Inclusive Design (CfID) would commence accessibility work first and then provide internal training.

Web accessibility auditing

Partnering with Link Group, the CfID team began with a pre-audit questionnaire and then conducted the accessibility audit while the website was still in development phase, following the WCAG Evaluation Methodology for testing. The CfID team aligned the audit and the report that followed the testing, with the 38 success criteria of the globally-recognised WCAG 2.0 Level AA standards. Automatic tools and manual testing were conducted, followed by a comprehensive and detailed report of a list of actionable steps required to move towards compliance. The report included:

  • The WCAG 2.0 checkpoint to which each issue relates.
  • Providing screenshots of problems encountered.
  • Comments from our technical auditors and testers.
  • Detailed recommendations on how to remediate each issue.

The CfID team used Citrix System software to remotely access the GESB website, which revealed some challenges with setting up assistive technologies and browsers. The first audit ended up below average with a score of 65%, where the average is around 70%, and quite a few changes needed to be made. Matthew Putland, of CfID, presented the first audit report to the Link Group team in Perth and Link Group him into their offices on several occasions for consultancy work and to clarify how things should be resolved or addressed.

The website was at ‘UAT stage’ by the time the second audit was conducted. After this audit, their score boosted way up to 97% – a huge improvement over the initial audit report. The last few issues were solved via email support from the CfID team, and soon Link Group had an audit report which was claiming WCAG 2.0 level ‘AA’ compliance. Completion of this audit occurred within a few weeks prior of the website going live, to the delight of Link Group.

In-house training

Two single-day training session were conducted by CfID trainers in two cities. One involved upskilling a team of Link Group digital team developers in Sydney, and the other was a session in Perth designed to broaden the understanding of accessibility outside of the digital team.

The Perth workshop was focussed on the principals of accessibility and on improving the user experience, by applying insights from lived experiences of people with a disability and how they will access and interact with the website. This session was delivered to key members of the GESB customer service team along with a collection of Link Group project managers.

In addition to these structured training workshops, CfID’s Senior Digital Accessibility Analyst, Matthew Putland, consulted to Link Group onsite in order to solve challenges as they emerged, further explain accessibility fixes, and to pass on additional tips and skills as needed.

Outcomes and Benefits

Link Group has greatly increased their organisation’s knowledge bank, accessibility expertise, and their ability to perform remediation of content to be accessible, as a direct result of the web accessibility auditing with user testing, and in-house training that was provided by CfID.

Link Group also came to discover that disability can be a part-time or permanent state with many different factors involved and that the level of disability across the entire population also increases with age. This was a real benefit on this project as many of the users of the GESB Member Online website, being Government employees, will have a higher proportion of people with disability, and of a higher median age, than the broader population at large.

Implementing changes to the website which allow people with disabilities to access the website will also benefit everyone who uses the website. In accessible design, information is clearer, websites work more reliably with technology, and people can benefit from accessibility features in a variety of everyday situations.

Laura Oliver, who was the Project Manager at the Link Group, liaised with CfID throughout the project. “When we started working with CfID in late 2016, we had little experience in web accessibility and had real concerns about our ability to deliver this work on time,” said Ms Oliver.

“The Centre for Inclusive Design team has made such a difference to us, by helping us through this process and providing guidance throughout,” said Ms Oliver. “I’ve received outstanding feedback from both our Perth and Sydney teams in relation to working with Centre for Inclusive Design. I’d like to thank the team from CfID for their patience with us and for keeping us on the right path.”

Into the Future

Link Group indicated that they were very happy with the level of service provided by the CfID team and praised CfID’s excellent response times to their questions and the amount of support provided. As a result, key members of the GESB customer service team as well as Link Group project managers have a much broader grasp of accessibility. Further to that, Link Group developers have the knowledge to make more accessible websites in the future.

Future improvements to the website include testing the website with mobile/tablet devices to ensure that TalkBack and VoiceOver screen reader’s users do not have trouble accessing web content. The audit reports also included recommended improvements for Link Group to consider which will help improve the accessibility of the website for everyone. These suggestions do not fail WCAG 2.0 but are improvements that can be implemented at a later date.

“Our internal teams now have a healthy respect for accessibility and we will work hard to ensure that this continues,” said Link Group Project Manager, Laura Oliver. “We would have no hesitation in using Centre for Inclusive Design services again for future work in this space.”