Accessibility Business Toolkit
Making Cumbria a more accessible destination
Through the Accessible Cumbria campaign, Cumbria Tourism is working to help our county become a more accessible destination – for visitors and residents travelling for leisure.
We all know that access to our stunning landscape has a positive impact on health and wellbeing, and we want to share those benefits with as many people as possible. To achieve this, we need your help!
When we talk about becoming a more accessible destination, we mean trying to better meet a diverse range of access needs, which will be unique to each individual; from those with often more obvious impairments, such as mobility issues, to hidden disabilities like cognitive impairments.
Our aim is to work with you to enable people to enjoy accessible visits to the Lake District, Cumbria, and have positive shared experiences with their group/family member. The toolkit below gives you some practical support to help you do just that.
Enabling Online Accessibility
The internet is a great enabler and allows people with a range of impairments to access services and take part in activities that would otherwise be relatively in-accessible.
The internet is fundamentally designed to work for all people, whatever their hardware, software, language, location, or ability. When the internet meets this goal, it is accessible to people with a diverse range of hearing, movement, sight, and cognitive ability.
However, when websites and apps are badly designed, they can create barriers that exclude people. Online accessibility means that websites, tools, and technologies are designed and developed so that people with a range of abilities can perceive, understand, navigate, interact with and contribute to the internet.
Online accessibility encompasses all disabilities that affect access to the internet, including:
Auditory, Cognitive, Neurological, Physical, Speech, Visual.
Assistive technologies and adaptive strategies
In the digital world, people with disabilities navigate the internet in a variety of ways depending on their needs. Some people may use specialised tools, others might adjust platform and browser settings. You tend to find that each user will pick a mix of these to accommodate their individual needs.
Collectively, this is what is known as assistive technologies and adaptive strategies:
- Assistive Technologies refer to hardware or software that enables people with disabilities to interact and engage with the digital environment: e.g. using a screen reader.
- Adaptive Strategies are techniques that people with disabilities use to interact with the digital environment such as adjusting platform and browser settings or resizing browser windows.
One type of assistive technology or adaptive strategy is not necessarily neatly mapped to just one type of disability.
There are many assistive technologies and adaptive strategies out there to enable usage of the internet and better access to websites and apps. However, there are a few things you can do to make your online content work better with these tools and for these users.
These great videos on web accessibility let you see internet access from some different users’ perspectives.
Below are a few basic hints and tips to help you create better websites and online content. This isn’t an exhaustive list, and we strongly recommend that businesses access the free web accessibility training supplied by W3C Web Accessibility Initiative.
You can also download these accessibility posters from the Home Office which outline key dos and don’ts.
Those with visual impairment might be using screen readers or find images difficult. Make sure you fill in alt tags and accurately describe your images, so people know what’s in them. This is also useful for people with slow internet connections who might struggle to load the images.
Accessible audio and video media
People who are deaf or hard of hearing need audio information as captions and/or transcripts. While accessible media is essential for people with disabilities, it is also very useful for everyone in a variety of situations.
For example, transcripts can be used without needing to download video files. They can also be used offline, printed, or converted to braille.
Captions can also be used in loud environments where users struggle to hear the audio or quiet environments where users cannot turn on sound. They also help users who are not native speakers or are learning a new language.
A lot of assistive technologies will identify links by the link copy, so make sure you name your links in a more obvious way. If you just use “click here” for every link it is very difficult for a user to identify which link they need to click.
Accessible navigation and design
People with some physical disabilities might not be using a mouse or are unable to navigate accurately with a mouse. Unplug your mouse and see how easy it is to navigate your website using just your keyboard!
When you are using a mouse, it’s easy to see where the focus of your mouse is due to the pointer on screen or white arrow. When using your keyboard, it can often be hard to work out where the page focus is, especially if tabs and menus don’t change colour or have some indication that you are on them.
How content is laid out also has an impact on how easy it is to navigate. For example, if you increase the font size in your browser, as a lot of users will, you will find it takes a lot of scrolling to read a page unless the text is set to wrap.
If your hand isn’t steady, it can also be very difficult to check small check boxes and other data inputting fields, so think about how and where you use these.
Providing the Right Information:
The availability of information can be a big barrier for those looking to plan a trip to the area. Simply knowing whether a room has a walk-in shower or a venue has level access can make all the difference when planning a visit.
Many users research online and are keen to see a dedicated, easy to find resource on your website. As well as information seeding through in relevant locations: e.g disabled parking allocation in the parking section.
An ‘Accessibility Guide’ or ‘Accessibility Statement’ can help you to communicate your facilities and services to disabled people. They can also help other customers who want specific accessibility information, such as older travellers or families with young children.
Detailing the accessibility of your venue in an Accessibility Guide will enable these people, their family and friends, to make informed decisions, based on their individual requirements.
We recommend using VisitBritain’s Accessibility Guide Tool for your accommodation or venue to take you through the process.
Once you have developed your Accessibility Guide or Statement it is important to make sure it’s easy to find on your website and you have a PDF version to send out on request.
Also make sure staff are aware of the guide and its contents, so they can answer any further enquiries. Providing staff training on your guide and disability awareness can significantly improve the level and type of information you can provide.
Making your Workplace more Inclusive
The Disability Confident scheme is a government initiative which helps employers recruit and retain great people, and to:
- Challenge attitudes and increase understanding of disability
- Draw from the widest possible pool of talent
- Secure high-quality staff who are skilled, loyal and hard working
- Improve employee morale and commitment by demonstrating fair treatment
It also helps identify those employers who are committed to inclusion and diversity in the workplace.
Disability Confident organisations play a leading role in changing attitudes for the better. They’re changing behaviour and cultures in their own businesses, networks and communities, and reaping the benefits of inclusive recruitment practices.
The scheme has 3 levels designed to support employers on their Disability Confident journey, these are:
- – Level 1: Disability Confident Committed
- – Level 2. Disability Confident Employer
- – Level 3: Disability Confident Leader
All employers join the scheme at Disability Confident Committed (Level 1), and progress through the levels to achieve the one that’s right for their organisation.
The Government also operates the Access to Work Scheme where employees with a disability or health condition can apply for funding to better support their workplace needs. Access to Work can help employees get or stay in work if they have a physical or mental health condition or disability.
Training Opportunities and Resources
There are some great resources and training opportunities – online and face-to-face.
Cumbrian based providers such as The Calvert Trust offer disability awareness training and can tailor training to your needs.
If you prefer to learn at your own pace, VisitBritain has a range of downloadable PDFs giving hints and tips and guidance of how to better welcome people with impairments.
If you want to understand how to better structure your website and online content then we recommend the free introduction to web accessibility course supplied by W3C Web Accessibility Initiative.
Also look out for a wealth of free resources provided by different charities and support organisations, which continue to expand all the time.
The Everywhere and Nowhere project created a free toolkit people can download on how to ethically research and present stories of disability history – Ethical Research and Practice.