Improving students' online experiences with MSL

Membership Solutions Ltd (MSL) provides membership management and digital engagement solutions for students' unions and universities in the UK, Ireland and Australia. 

The MSL team contacted AbilityNet as it wanted to find out what improvements it could make to the product regarding accessibility. 

"It is very important for our students’ union clients to have a website which is accessible, so it is incumbent upon MSL to try and ensure the tools we provide can easily enable that," says Laura Merris, Product Manager at MSL.

Graphic showing circles connected by gridlines. Circles include words 'Engagement', 'Student', 'Wellbeing', 'Representation' and 'Participation'

"This was not about compliance for its own sake but our duty to invest in the right support on behalf our clients and their end users to ensure every user is able to have their best possible experience," says MSL's CEO, Gary Bryant.

Identifying improvements

Having spoken with an accessibility expert about the organisation's priorities, MSL chose AbilityNet's specialist HE/FE Digital Accessibility Bundle to meet its needs, incorporating an accessibility overview, accessibility review, and an accessibility statement mapper session. AbilityNet's analysis of MSL's digital solutions highlighted that there were more modern techniques available for the company to use of which they were not previously aware. For example, making use of some ARIA design patterns like 'ARIA live regions' to communicate dynamic changes such as filtering of events.

"AbilityNet kept in touch with us on how the assessment was going, the findings were presented in an easily digestible format and the presentation at the end of project was tailored just for us to clearly identify what we should be working on," says Laura Merris. "It was a great experience working with AbilityNet. They are very professional, organised and, of course, knowledgeable," she continues.

Image of Adi Latif using mobile technology as a blind user

One of AbilityNet's senior consultants, Adi (pictured above), who is blind, gave a talk about lived experience, to give MSL's customers a better understanding of the difference it can make to someone when they ensure that their sites are accessible. "We got to see how he uses modern techniques and technology, such as features on his mobile phone to navigate sites really quickly. This was crucial in helping us better understand how people access sites in many different ways," says Laura.

Following feedback from AbilityNet, MSL was able to incorporate many of our suggestions to inform how to update the components on its website. "We have already provided new support content for our clients to help them think more broadly about accessibility. As part of our product development roadmap, we now have a project defined to update our website design system and overhaul the components used to build our clients’ websites," says Laura.

Enabling future accessibility planning

MSL plans to take the recommendations provided in its AbilityNet review and incorporate them into its system so that it can be sure that the solutions it offers to clients helps them build accessible sites. MSL's design and development team has also already undertaken accessibility training on Accessibility for Developers: ARIA and the Accessibility Tree, and has further AbilityNet training sessions booked in.

"We want to keep abreast of developments available for us to use and, in turn, ensure our clients are aware of these technologies so they can provide the best experience to their site users," says Laura Merris.

Image of student using laptop while sitting on sofa

"We encourage anyone reviewing accessibility not to look at it as a box ticking exercise," she says. "Instead, take the approach that this is about individuals using your website, how you can make their life easier and your information available to more people. Don’t be intimidated by the project; look for expert help from organisations like AbilityNet to give you the confidence you are moving in the right direction - small changes can be made that will actually make a huge difference to your site users." 

Start your accessibility journey - speak to our experts

Do you need help with digital accessibility at your organisation? AbilityNet offers 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.