What do we mean by accessibility?
Web accessibility is all about ensuring that there are no barriers to prevent the use of - or access to - a website by any user; it's an essential consideration for any website or web-based product. And, for us, given the nature of what we do, accessibility couldn't be more important. That's why we are committed to ensuring that any and every user is able to make the most of all the features we offer (and that's quite a list of features).
To ensure compliance with accessibility across the globe, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) was established in October 1994. It was designed to develop and promote consistency in design code, with guidelines organised into four principles: perceivable, operable, understandable and robust. For each guideline, there are testable success criteria at three levels, namely: A, AA and AAA. Our ambition is to provide the best possible support for the WCAG 2.0 guidelines not only at level A, but at level AA, and level AAA wherever possible, and our approach to accessibility compliance will be one of continual improvement and refinement.
For some of our customers, ensuring the accessibility of web technologies used in education is a government-mandated requirement, and we will continue to do our utmost to ensure our customers are able to achieve compliance. If you are unfamiliar with what this means for universities across the globe, here are a couple of examples from two of the major territories in which we operate:
Advisory notes from the Australian Disability Discrimination Act
2016 Federal and State Accessibility Guidelines and Laws for Educators
Our accessibility journey - the story so far
In order to determine a starting point for our journey of accessibility improvements, we commissioned the Digital Accessibility Centre (DAC) to review PebblePad and highlight areas requiring improvement. After reviewing the findings in the DAC report, we had a number of development team meetings to discuss how we could work most productively on our accessibility challenges and move towards AA compliance. The meetings resulted in us taking the decision to create focused accessibility sprints where the team would work only on accessibility enhancements (if you're not familiar with the term, a sprint is the name given to a dedicated period of development time in the methodology used across all of our development teams).
However, since PebblePad offers numerous ways for users to engage with different parts of the platform, we decided to break the entire system down into components with a view to tackling each component one by one. Initially, we started with 30 components, but as we dug deeper into the code we uncovered a number of additional areas where we could up our game on the user experience front.
PebblePad's 'feature-rich' Asset Store has seen a number of accessibility improvements.
We have already made significant inroads on our journey to making PebblePad more accessible - all the landing areas for users are now accessible, and we’re about to start making improvements to the components that allow users to build and create portfolios. For more detailed information on what we've already ticked off our 'accessibility list' and what improvements lie ahead, head to the accessibility information page on our Community Site.
And, finally, a big thank you to our customers
We are hugely grateful to the customers who have helped us on our Accessibility Journey - with a special note of thanks to Portland State University. The regular reviews from our wonderful community have allowed developers to ask user experience questions that take us beyond mere compliance as we strive to build a product that offers a great experience for all our users, regardless of ability.