Designing for All: Accrediting Blind Veterans UK’s website for accessibility

"It's really obvious that they have actually thought about accessibility in the design process," said the BBC in its review of the Blind Veterans UK website on its Radio 4 In Touch programme. 

But how did the charity achieve this high praise? One of the main ways was through AbilityNet and Blind Veterans UK working together alongside disabled users to incorporate their valuable lived experience feedback to make adjustments to the site accordingly.  

Blind Veterans UK supports vision-impaired ex-servicemen and women and embarked on an ambitious project: to design a website that was not only fully accessible but also engaging and user-friendly for everyone. 

It approached AbilityNet to help with its mission. 

A User-Centric Approach Blind Veterans UK logo with strapline "rebuilding lives after sight loss"

From the outset, Blind Veterans UK prioritised user needs. The project team involved vision-impaired veterans, plus the charity’s partners, and staff in the website’s design process, ensuring the website reflected the range of lived experiences within the charity and its supporters 

AbilityNet helped devise and conduct comprehensive user testing tasks for the site, involving participants with diverse accessibility needs including people with vision impairments, neurodiverse conditions, hearing loss and physical disabilities.  

During user testing, participants conducted a review and provided feedback on the following areas of the website using different technologies, such as a screen reader, a keyboard, voice recognition software and screen magnification software.   

From Compliance to Usability 

Going beyond technical compliance, Blind Veterans UK aimed for real-life usability. The website features clear and concise language, a low cognitive load design, and intuitive navigation, making the website accessible to everyone. Amy Low, AbilityNet’s Service Delivery Director said, “The accreditation process draws on the experiences of users as well as evaluation of the site for compliance with web content accessibility guidelines and the Blind Veterans UK team took on board the findings and worked diligently to address barriers encountered and feedback shared."  

AbilityNet assessed the website and awarded a Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 AA rating and AbilityNet's Accredited Plus certification, a testament to its exceptional accessibility.  

Ensuring Inclusive Digital Experiences AbilityNet Accredited plus accreditation

AbilityNet accredited websites and apps are tested by a representative sample of disabled users who can provide an authentic account of the issues that they encounter. As part of the certification process, expert accessibility testing and auditing are used to ensure that good accessibility practices have been followed. 

Amy said, "Securing this accreditation is a huge achievement. The Blind Veterans UK team's commitment to accessibility is truly inspiring." 

Accessibility praise from BBC 

So that’s why Matthew Cooper, BBC Radio 4's In Touch programme’s technology enthusiast, who is also blind, gave the website a glowing review, commenting that he was “really impressed with the ways the controls are labelled out and how every photo is captioned nicely". He said, “It feels like I'm looking at a native website and it doesn't feel like I'm working with screen reader specific controls.” 

“I think, it's deserving of its [AbilityNet Accreditation Plus] award, personally”, Matthew said.  

Moving Forward: A Legacy of Inclusion 

Blind Veterans UK remains committed to accessibility.  

Mark Whatham, the Blind Veterans UK’s Head of Marketing & Communications, said: “As we move forward with the website, we’ll make sure we work closely with our beneficiaries to ensure that accessibility remains at the heart of everything we do.” 

This project serves as a beacon of hope, demonstrating that accessibility and exceptional user experience can go together. We at AbilityNet are proud to have played a part in this journey, and we continue to strive for a more inclusive online world for everyone. 

Do you want an award-winningly accessible website like Blind Veterans UK? Get in touch today to find out more about our accreditation service.  

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