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A one-person accessibility crusade

With limited resources and many websites to manage, one person achieves accessibility success with Silktide.

Challenges

  • No background in accessibility
  • One person team
  • Manual content auditing
  • Multiple provider websites

Needs

  • Accessibility education
  • Efficient workflow
  • Automate website checks
  • Promote accessibility across teams

Results

  • Huge accessibility improvements
  • Streamlined workflow
  • More issues found and fixed
  • Increased organizational awareness

We sat down with Carly Dixon, Web Strategy and Development Manager at Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council to find out how she’s managed to bring everyone together to improve accessibility.

As a one-person team, Carly’s accessibility and usability improvement challenges were almost insurmountable.

Carly’s background is in marketing and communications. She has no background in web accessibility.

Carly is just over one year into a two-year secondment heading up the Web Strategy and Development project.

This has been a mammoth task for one person to manage. However, with support from a wide range of people across many teams, and of course from Silktide, she’s managing it successfully.

Stockton Borough Council is one of five main Local Authorities in Teeside. Proportionately, it services the most residents.

We asked Carly to explain how she became involved with the accessibility project, who was involved, and how she’s getting on.

Silktide: You’re a marketer by trade. How did you get involved as an accessibility lead?

“When the EU accessibility laws were introduced a few years ago, it was quite apparent that we had a big skills gap across the organization. This wasn’t the fault of any individual, it was just something we’d not been able to focus on as an organization.”

“I firmly believe that accessibility goes hand in hand with usability. I understand the importance of making your websites usable for your customers or users.”

“We faced a wide range of challenges and had some specific goals. I took it upon myself to explain to multiple teams and stakeholders the magnitude of our work, and that it was so important to make our websites accessible.”

“This wasn’t just because of the EU accessibility laws, but simply because it was the right thing to do for our users.”

“I was invited to have a two-year secondment into the Digital Transformation Team to solve the issues.”

“You totally understood how I was feeling, you understood all my frustrations. I’m on my own trying to get the project moving, and just talking to like-minded people who’ve faced these challenges was so reassuring.”

Carly Dixon | Web Strategy and Development Manager | Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council

Silktide: How did you go about trying to improve?

“I set up a lot of meetings with members from the marketing, customer service, ICT, and procurement teams. We also engaged with our third-party suppliers who host a number of our websites.”

“It was a real challenge to get everybody on the same page internally. Nobody understood accessibility, and nobody understood its importance and impact on the end-users.”

“I knew I needed help and I knew I needed a technical solution. So we purchased another website testing platform that we hoped to help us in the early part of 2020.”

“However, it just wasn’t up to the task. It didn’t help us understand accessibility at all, it was just filled with jargon. It didn’t help us with readability, and to be honest, it just wasn’t helping me get buy-in from the team.”

Silktide: How did you find Silktide?

“I found Silktide out of pure frustration with our previous provider. I was in a Facebook group and your partnership with Socitm was mentioned. So I jumped at the chance to look at it, and I liked what I saw.”

“To be honest, given that I’d already chosen a platform that wasn’t working for us  I thought it was going to be a challenge to get the budget signed off.”

“I came fully-armed with questions when I had my demo with you because I know I was going to have to make a really good business case for moving to Silktide.”

“However, after the demo, all the boxes were ticked plus more. There was no hesitation internally at all once I showed them Silktide. They said if it will help, if this is what you need and it’s across more sites with more users, then go for it.”

“And it’s going to help us deal with those barriers and resistance.”

“The whole process was really easy. What sold it for me was that it wasn’t all about the money, you really want to help people improve things.”

“You offered to help us through our transition period. It wasn’t a one size fits all approach. It was very much tailored to our needs.”

“It wasn’t as business-like as I thought, it was far more conversational. You totally understood how I was feeling, you understood all my frustrations. Here I am on my own, trying to get the project moving, and just talking to like-minded people who’ve faced these challenges was so reassuring.”

“I just thought, ‘These guys get it’.”

“Accessibility is such a massive learning curve, an education. Silktide breaks it down into bite-sized bits. It’s effortless to digest, and there’s no jargon.”

Carly Dixon | Web Strategy and Development Manager | Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council

Silktide: You talked about internal resistance. How did you overcome that?

“There was a little apprehension from our ICT team. I told them that Silktide had identified a number of accessibility issues across all our sites.”

“But in reality, once they’d seen the platform they quickly came on board because they saw the educational value.”

“It was a similar story across other departments. Silktide actually helped a wide range of people understand the impact of their work on end-users.”

“It’s really intuitive and easy to use. I’ve rolled it out to a wide range of people. Nobody has any issues with it.”

“The level of detail Silktide goes into really helps everyone understand accessibility. I really like the training content, the explanations, and the videos.”

“It just takes away all the jargon around accessibility and helps non-experts understand what needs doing.”

“Silktide was there to help me get everyone on board, and it did it really well.”

“Also, I was able to point out some quick wins. A number of issues were found across lots of pages, so they were problems with our main web theme. So fixing those really helped us make a big impact on our accessibility scoring.”

Silktide: What are your next steps?

“We’ve got a new external provider and a new CMS, and we’re currently building the new main council website. Silktide is a big part of helping with that.”

“When it launches it will be a vast improvement on what we currently have.”

Silktide: You’re obviously really passionate about accessibility.

“Yes completely. But for me, it goes hand-in-hand with usability. One of the main things we struggled with across all our sites was the inconsistency in readability.”

“There was so much jargon and a lot of the content was written without any real regard for the people who’d actually be reading it.”

“So things like the readability scoring in Silktide has really helped with that. We’re aiming for 9 years of reading age across our sites.”

I used Silktide to show evidence to my team that our readability needed improvement, it helped me sell it internally.”

“But also it’s about raising people’s awareness. Things like making sure subtitles are available on video content, even embedded third party videos. The perception internally was that it’s just for people with hearing loss, but that’s really not the case at all.”

“What about people in a quiet room or on public transport? Do they scroll Facebook with their volume up all the time? Of course not, they’ll watch it with subtitles.”

“You’re making someone disabled by your poor design. It’s the same as having a shop with no ramp. That’s poor design, and you are making that person disabled by not providing a ramp. It’s not their problem, it’s yours. It’s the same with your website.”

“So it’s just things like that. Getting people to understand that accessibility benefits every user.”

Silktide: What would your advice be to people considering using Silktide?

“Don’t hesitate. Don’t hesitate. I wish I’d known about Silktide when I procured our last provider. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it.”

“It’s going to give you all the information you need to make things better for people, and that’s just the right thing to do.”

Silktide: Was the investment in Silktide worthwhile?

“Absolutely. If anything, I think you’re underselling yourselves. It’s absolutely worth its weight in gold.”

“Accessibility is such a massive learning curve, an education. Silktide breaks it down into bite-sized bits. It’s effortless to digest, and there’s no jargon.”

“You can tackle the issues independently, so it never looks like it’s a huge unmanageable task. The platform just splits everything up really well.”

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