Our accessibility awareness training is open to all colleagues

We’ve been running inhouse training with small groups to help place accessibility at the centre of all Co-op products and services. We believe that this is everyone’s responsibility and the more Co-op colleagues who are aware of the barriers that some people face daily, the better.

Our training is practical and interactive

We don’t believe people choose to ignore accessibility issues but there may be instances when a team lacks awareness of the subject. That’s the crux of our challenge: improving awareness of:

  • what the term ‘accessibility’ encompasses
  • the situations where accessibility problems crop up frequently and can be avoided 

We designed the training with those things in mind.

The task

We mocked up 4 webpages and set participants the fictional task of figuring out how to return a leaky bag of flour (topical – mid-lockdown everyone seemed to be baking).

Here’s what the ‘return a leaky bag of flour’ task looks like. It’s Co-op branded but includes a banner stating ‘This is not a real Co-op website’!

We give everyone 3 minutes to look through the 4 pages and make notes on anything they think may be challenging or confusing for someone with a disability. We then discuss each observation and discuss why each thing may not be accessible. 

The set-up

We believe that showing rather than just telling helps deepen understanding, so we ask participants to complete the task with their:

  • screens zoomed in to 400% because visual impairments among users are very common so many people often pinch zoom to enlarge a photo or increase text size
  • keyboard only (no mouse or touchpad) because this is the default way of interacting with an online service for people with Parkinsons, motor control issues or severe arthritis. Those users (plus people with visual impairments) often struggle to use a mouse. 

The training takes less than an hour. 

Safeguarding inclusive services 

Around 70 colleagues have now taken part in a session and the hope is that they’ll be better equipped to spot things that could be problematic in their area of work and raise it with their team who can work together to fix it. 

The training has highlighted the importance of talking about accessibility as a whole team. We found that content designers picked up on jargon and engineers picked up on missing form labels as we would expect, but having a better awareness of common issues that crop up in other disciplines is another way to safeguard inclusive services. 

So far, so good

Participants have thought it’s been an hour well-spent. Here’s a screenshot of some of the feedback we’ve had. 

The feedback from participants on a Miro board.

Comments include: 

“I can confirm, the session is one of the best training courses of been on at the co-op”

“I liked that there were people from different disciplines. Tons of items called out from the design members of the group that i wouldn’t have spotted and they articulated them really well.”

“Motivating – made me want to test a bunch of other sites.”

How we got here

The idea for how to create useful training came from Ultralearning by Scott H Young, a book which features contestant Roger Craig’s approach to ‘learning everything’ on general knowledge game show Jeopardy. I talk more about this in my post ‘Jeopardy to accessibility’ but essentially, Craig grouped previous questions and swotted up on gaps in his knowledge. And, like the possible questions Craig might have come up against, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are very broad and can seem daunting. So we grouped them, figured out the most common problems in Co-op products and services and identified which guidelines we’re failing on most.

Then we took inspiration from Beverley Newing and James Buller’s superb work at the Ministry of Justice which you can read about in Bev’s post Training people to do accessibility reviews. Co-op Digital’s Ciaran Green and Matt Tyas designed and built the training pages, and Rachel Machin and Joanne Schofield wrote the content. 

Take part in the training

If you’d like to sign up for a training session, email me at dave.cunningham@coop.co.uk 

No technical knowledge required, you just need to care about building inclusive products and services. 

Dave Cunningham

Design Ops Manager