Accessibility Clinics are a session where teams can bring a design, idea, code block or prototype and get feedback from experts.
They are not a governance gateway or an assessment against standards, they are deliberately designed to be a safe space where people can bring ideas and discuss them well in advance of hitting those governance steps.
Teams were hitting blockers with accessibility and having to do a lot of expensive re-work.
Problems were often being found too late in the product development lifecycle, making it around more expensive to fix.
Fixing accessibility problems in the design is:
- 6x cheaper than in Development
- 10x cheaper than in Test
- 30x cheaper than in Production
Teams were missing simple opportunities to embed accessibility work in the process. It was clear that teams needed more feedback than was currently available.
Accessibility specialists are rare. So we needed to be more generous with the ones we did have available.
Provide a way for teams to get feedback earlier in the product lifecycle.
If teams could understand potential issues before they are designed or built, then it would save the team time and money, and the user would get a better product which was more likely to work for them.
A lot of feedback in Government is in the form of Governance. Teams needed somewhere to be curious. Ask questions and be honest. Governance often creates anxiety and people are afraid that ideas will be judged harshly.
The thing that was most important to me was to create an environment where people could be curious, ask questions and discuss ideas.
It had to be a safe space.
We also do not limit who can attend. You can bring anything to an Accessibility Clinic. A conceptual idea, sketches or a polished product. We can do a full critique or just have a conversation. It's entirely open.
The panel is made up of 3 accessibility experts from different practices. A Frontend Developer. An Interaction Designer. A document specialist.
The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Teams are more engaged and are embracing accessibility earlier in the product life cycle.
It has increased learning and development around accessibility. Teams are implementing the things they've learned, and we reduce and anonymise the conversations into shareable blog posts so others can learn from them too.
We currently run a session every Thursday. But we've got a backlog of around 6 weeks, so we're looking to run more sessions by getting more panel members involved.
The sessions help us identify other issues across Gov. For example, braille, coloured paper and large print letters are not available through common print contracts, such as through GOV.UK Notify.
It helps to inform wider conversations across Gov about potential shortcomings. For example procurement contracts not having a full range of accessible options.