How AbilityNet helped Dot Project create inclusive guidelines for online training

Dot Project is a cooperative that believes that technology and digitalisation can help organisations to thrive in a more connected way and deliver more sustainable impact. 

It supports organisations across the social, public and education sectors with mentoring, coaching, introducing new technology and mapping services to explore how they can harness technology to improve their processes and output.

Dot Project logo - green borders around the words Dot Project

Creating a benchmark

Dot Project approached AbilityNet to input into its ‘BEYOND’ project, an initiative funded by the National Lottery Community Fund to provide digital, data and design training to a range of non-profit organisations working in the sectors of Mental Health, Sexual Abuse and Domestic Violence.

“We recognised the need to create a benchmark to understand Dot Project’s perspective that everyone was welcome and their needs had been considered. Inclusion and accessibility are in some ways interchangeable, and we therefore focused on accessibility principles, with the aim to address the complexities of people who often face not one, but multiple disadvantages.” says Harriet (Harry) Williams, Community Engagement Officer at Dot Project.

“Initial discussions with AbilityNet helped us to reduce how overwhelming the project felt to begin with, and to see it as a journey where we were focusing in on some initial steps rather than trying to tackle everything at once,” Harry says.

AbilityNet wanted to take a really person-centred approach to supporting the various delivery partners working with Dot Project,” says Adam Tweed, Innovation Consultant at AbilityNet, “to be really inclusive in their approach, but to take the onus off the delegates to request accessibility adjustments by designing as many barriers out in advance,” he explains.

Six accessibility priorities

With the support and guidance documentation provided by AbilityNet, Harry was able to create an ‘actions template’ for partners which could be used to focus in on a set of six, achievable priorities for accessibility of the training sessions and online meetings.

These priorities were:

  1. Insert an accessibility placeholder at the start of every PowerPoint deck (detailing accessibility considerations and etiquette) 
  2. Ensure images have appropriate descriptions (alt text or described if live)
  3. Captioned video / audio content 
  4. Files to be provided in original format rather than PDF (HTML preferably) 
  5. Clear video on calls 
  6. Clear audio on calls 

“AbilityNet created a Dot Project-branded, shareable survey that we were able to send out to our partners to gauge their confidence when it came to producing accessible learning,” says Harry.

“This then meant we could provide partners with appropriate support to meet the accessibility guidelines when preparing materials for their courses,” Harry continues.

Video guidance content

"AbilityNet also produced a series of videos for Dot Project that provided some headline points for partners to quickly review or refer back to. They also contained examples of good practice and simple considerations for making content more accessible.”

Here is an example of one the videos:  

“There was always going to be a danger that the preparation and delivery guidelines can be seen as a tick box exercise and possibly as ‘more work’ for the delivery partners. As such, we wanted to get across the person-centred side of the project,” Adam continues. “The videos were intended to frame the guidance around the experience of diverse delegates and give partners the motivation to get this right for everyone,” he says.

Surprises, challenges and learnings

“AbilityNet gave advice and training when we came across areas where we felt that we could do with more in-depth advice, such as the accessibility of Google Slides,” Harry continues. 

"We discussed the areas [of accessibility] that our BEYOND partners felt less confident about. A few partners had some difficulties determining whether their content was sufficiently accessible, and some were critical of their content,” Harry says.

There was, however, a clear drive to ensure accessible content.

From the feedback received from partners there were comments that highlighted a belief that their content needed to be “fully compliant”; “fully accessible” and “not ‘just’ accessible, but designed with accessibility in mind from the start”. 

“In reviewing some of the partners' content and meeting with them one-to-one we were able to show how achievable creating accessible content was,” says Harry.

Advice for making progress with accessibility

So, how can organisations start to improve accessibility on projects like BEYOND? “Encourage partners and be the sounding board for their concerns, noting to them that this is a journey. They may not be able to achieve the ideal requirements set out in the time they have available, but they will still have learnt what to aim for,” says Harry.

Speak to our experts

We offer tailored accessibility and usability support to clients from all sectors.

Speak to our experts about your project and we will advise on a bespoke accessibility strategy to meet your specific requirements.