Skip to main content

20-20a Westminster Buildings, Theatre Square, Nottingham, NG1 6LG(0115) 888 2828

Q&A: Zara Gemmell, Accessibility Director

Written by Ben Leach on

In our Q&A with our Accessibility Director, Zara, we find out all about what her views on our services are, and where she positions HeX in a competitive digital market.

For over two years, HeX Productions’ focus has been on creating a more inclusive web by developing and maintaining accessible websites and digital services for numerous clients across the public and private sectors. 

Here, we interviewed our Accessibility Director, Zara Gemmell, who is responsible for continuously driving the company’s accessibility offering forwards. We find out all about what Zara’s views on our services are, and where she positions HeX in a competitive digital market. 

Q1: What exactly does HeX do in the accessibility space? 

Here at HeX, we deliver development programmes to WCAG 2.1 AA Standard. We support the public and private sectors, including further/higher education institutions. We have a cross-skilled team including design, development and content personnel to help organisations with any aspect of their accessible web projects. 

Right now we’re working with Broxtowe Borough Council and Rushcliffe Borough Council, University of Winchester and Nottingham College providing audits and development support along with training for content editors, developers and upper management. 

Q2: So, what experience has HeX had delivering projects in the public sector? 

We’ve had more than 15+ years of experience in local authority. Our Creative Director James Hall, worked in local authority web teams before becoming a freelancer and setting up HeX.  HeX are now strategic delivery partners to the same local authorities because of the. first-hand experience of the culture and challenges faced balancing budget for delivery. 

We have since developed the expertise to implement an accessibility model,  helping Broxtowe and Rushcliffe Councils by providing audits, training programmes, integrated planning, design and development skills to deliver web-based assets.

Q3: What is HeX’s aim when it comes to implementing accessibility in organisations? 

Our ethos is to provide knowledge and help teams thrive; allowing organisations to maintain their digital assets at WCAG 2.1 AA accredited standard, tested by a pan-disabled user testing team. 

We understand 3rd party systems and are actively encouraging a change in products provided to these organisations. We pride ourselves as influencers. 

Q4: How do HeX champion leadership from the top down in organisations? 

Working with leadership teams at Broxtowe, Rushcliffe and Newark & Sherwood Councils to create a culture of understanding that accessibility has to be championed from the top. To do this we offer live, interactive demonstrations providing key user-based research examples. 

Working with Broxtowe, we run workshops with senior leaders providing clear pathways to achieve the goals that are outlined in legislation. Reporting progress on planned work, explaining how this impacts their day to day processes to meet targets. 

Q5: Do you offer training to organisations? 

We offer training and workshops that can be both practical and fact-based, all depending on the organisation’s requirements. Each session we offer is tailored to the department and/or the experience of the employee.

All of the training material is designed and delivered specifically for the organisation. We also deliver and provide ‘Train the Trainer’ packages allowing knowledge to be passed through the organisation. 

Q6: How do you ensure all users are considered during accessibility projects? 

We partner with Shaw Trust Accessibility Services and deliver a pan-disabled user testing team and accreditation ensuring WCAG 2.1 AA compliance. 

Whilst we can provide this pan-disabled team, we appreciate that every user is unique with entirely different needs. It’s imperative that we understand these needs, and provide the best user experience possible. 

Working with Broxtowe, we produced a number of key contact methods allowing users to give feedback on the website. This provided residents with the opportunity to opt-in and volunteer to be part of a user group. 

Q7: What first-hand experience does HeX have with accessibility issues? 

We are a member of the Disability Rights UK and have signed the Charter at the Business Disability Forum who can advise and provide methods for sustainable and best practice user research methods. 

We have also gleaned information from the pan-disabled user testing team at the Shaw Trust, covering all aspects of WCAG including visual, hearing, cognitive and motor impairments. 

From our previous work auditing and carrying out User Research, we are familiar with the wide range of assistive technology that people use, and have experience of the complications felt by users with additional needs.

We are also learning BSL (British Sign Langauge) as a team after realising the lack of understanding and skilled experts in this area.

Q8: Accessibility can be difficult to understand, how do you ensure that organisations understand what you are recommending? 

We recently carried out an audit of the University of Winchester’s Intranet system. This was translated into plain English and assistive technology was used to demonstrate the issues faced by screen reader users.

We have been able to develop a number of controls and workshops that demonstrate the importance of user testing with real-world scenarios. 

Q9: How does a project get handed over by the HeX team. Are you able to ensure the organisation has the most effective start? 

We use Agile methodologies to deliver projects. Identifying key members of each team, we provide a breakdown of tasks required by each department or service-provider to plan sprints, fix issues and retrospect on progress.

Our audits are provided in an accessible digital format that can be handed over face-to-face or via video conferencing. 

When you work with us, our Accessibility Director, Zara, will work closely with your organisation to ensure timely delivery and will be one of your points of contact throughout. She will also be ensuring that all output is accessible and that we work in collaboration, complementing each other’s efforts

If you want HeX to be a part of your next accessible project, you should get in touch with us. Alternatively, if you’re unsure about accessibility, you can read our what is accessibility? page and take advantage of our free accessibility health check.