Case study brief: Accessibility audit testing and statement creation for the University of Winchester's intranet
University of Winchester required an in-depth accessibility review of their brand-new Intranet environment. The Intranet was to be used by students in the next term. The University wanted to provide a Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) Level AA compliant system along with an Accessibility Statement to compliment the audit.
Live assistive technology and automated tool demonstrations made this case study unique
The Communications and web teams at the University of Winchester were able to understand the Intranet’s accessibility issues after receiving a live demonstration on the range of access methods including assistive technology.
To get a picture of the Intranet’s technical level of accessibility, automated tools were used by the HeX team to give an overview.
Accessibility audit and statement activities
- Automated audit software scanning of websites.
- Manual user audit testing with assistive technology and devices.
- A technical review of the site, assessing codebase errors.
- Accessibility report detailing site accessibility enhancements, linking to the WCAG criterion.
- Accessibility consultancy giving demonstrations with the use of assistive technology and guidance on the site changes required.
- Accessibility statement support.
HeX’s experience in Higher Education
Because of our influence within the accessibility market, the Communications and Marketing team at the University of Winchester approached HeX Productions to support their efforts to become an accessible higher education establishment.
HeX has extensive experience within the higher education market, having worked alongside our partners Terminalfour to support universities around the world. Our experience of working in collaboration with a Russell Group University web team in London, has given us a deep understanding of how universities operate and the need for accessible digital services within the sector.
Accessibility requirements for an intranet system
The Communications team at the University of Winchester had begun the roll-out of a new Intranet system and required areas of inaccessibility to be identified within it. They also required an Accessibility Statement to compliment the audit, detailing to users what they could expect when accessing the Intranet system.
Moving large digital environments can pose a number of challenges for an organisation of the University of Winchester’s size, so being able to ascertain the risks involved is essential. One of the responsibilities is to ensure the new digital environment is as accessible as possible, which is where our auditing solutions were required.
Doing this audit before the full roll-out proved incredibly advantageous to the University and allowed HeX to present any obstacles to the Communications team before it became an issue for any students or staff accessing the system.
Intranet accessibility auditing process
In order to understand the level of accessibility the new intranet was operating at, the University enlisted us to carry out a full internal audit, in an attempt to identify any content or technical obstacles when it came to accessibility.
The first step to the audit was to run an automated check on the Intranet system. The goal of the automated check is to identify particular areas that were technically inadequate, allowing technical and content accessibility specialists to further assess the obstacles.
Once the automated check had been carried out, HeX’s team of accessibility specialists also reviewed the site. This involved using a range of navigation methods, including tabbing, speech control and screen reader navigation.
As well as assessing the usability of the system, the focus was on identifying:
- Key template issues
- Content readability problems
- Incorrect tabbing orders
- Context errors in image alt text
- Colour contrast discrepancies
- Skipped or empty content elements
- Areas that are difficult to navigate
Once the system had been audited, HeX put together a detailed report for the University, incorporating both the manual and automated checks. The report emphasised the areas of improvement, and explained why the error was an issue in terms of accessibility. Whilst the report highlighted areas that could be changed in order to conform to the WCAG 2.0 Level AA, there were also recommendations (albeit non-essential) to help the University make Level AAA changes.
Once we had issued the report, we set up a call with the Communications team in order to walk them through our findings. This provided an opportunity for non-technical members of the team to understand the issues first-hand. This also gave them a greater understanding of why disabled users would have issues navigating, and allowed them to witness assistive technology being used on the Intranet system.
Creating an accessibility statement for the intranet
After the audit report had been created for the University, we moved on to collating the findings and creating an Accessibility Statement that reflected the Intranet.
The benefit of having an accessibility statement is that, usually, it is one of the first things a disabled user will navigate to in order to better understand how they use a digital service. There is a clear timeline of fixes within the statement which allows students and staff to better understand the accessibility roadmap of the establishment and increases transparency around equality and diversity. It is also crucial to the University to demonstrate to their users that they understand accessibility and are actively making an effort to improve it.
The statement follows WCAG, which states that a fundamental part of accessibility is for a digital service to be ‘Understandable’. Without a compliant Accessibility Statement, organisations are negating to show their work on accessibility in the best way. By not communicating how their digital web estate interacts or does not interact with assistive technology is an oversight in itself.
Using guidelines from the Government designed accessibility statement, HeX took the findings from the accessibility audit and translated this into an accessibility statement. The statement produced is readable, clear and concise, tailored specifically for the University of Winchester’s Intranet. This creates transparency and a level of accountability for the University and its users.
During HeX’s creation, and quick turnaround of this statement, it was ensured that the core elements of a good and compliant statement were included. These elements are:
- Whether the digital service is fully/partially/not compliant with accessibility guidelines.
- The organisation’s commitment to accessibility.
- The standards that the site has been audited against (in our case, the most recent standards, WCAG 2.1)
- Contact information of the staff member responsible for accessibility.
- Any limitations of accessibility on the digital estate.
- What the organisation has done/is doing in regard to accessibility.
- Compatibility of operating systems.
- Areas that did not meet the WCAG 2.1 Level AA.
Accessibility outcomes in the development mix
The HeX team were able to supply the University of Winchester’s Marketing and Communications team with an in-depth report on the accessibility of their intranet system.
Each issue was categorised, allowing developers to fix issues in a streamlined and efficient way.
The University has now been able to take the findings back to the Intranet provider and challenge them on not meeting the agreed level of accessibility. HeX’s work has been invaluable for the University to demonstrate and request these changes as part of the University’s agreement with the service provider.