GOV.UK accessibility survey finds problems with PDFs and search function

Written by Rebecca Hill on 11 November 2016 in News

The survey results will help GDS decide which assistive technologies to test the site with in future

Chris Young/PA Wire/Press Association Images

The UK Government Digital Service (GDS) has begun addressing accessibility issues with PDFs on GOV.UK following a survey of assistive technology users.

Digital accessibility champion Chris Moore said that the team was planning to carry out more user research on accessibility across the sites, as the 2016 GOV.UK survey identified areas users struggle with

It also looked at which technologies that are most popular with users.


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The survey, which received more than 700 responses, aimed to identify the types of assistive technologies people used, as well as allowing respondents to feedback more generally about accessibility on GOV.UK.

Moore said that a “significant number” said that they were happy with the service provided overall, but that the survey raised issues in a number of areas.

These included difficulties in using PDFs – respondents asked for content to be made available in HTML instead – and in reading the black text on the white background.

The survey also found there were usability issues with the site’s ‘start now’ pages.

Moore said this was because the things you need to know before you start appear after the ‘start now’ button, which be missed by screen reader and screen magnification users.

In addition, Moore said that several users had difficulties with the search results page, saying that it was too complicated, with too many options to navigate.

“Users felt that the interface should be cleaner to easily find the search results with perhaps an option to display advanced features for those who need more granularity when filtering,” he wrote.

When asked what assistive technologies they used, 30 per cent of GOV.UK users said they used a screen magnifier, while 29 per cent used a screen reader.

Of those who used a magnifier, 38 per cent used one with screen reader capabilities, with ZoomText being the most commonly used in both categories.

For those with screen readers, JAWS was the most popular, followed by VoiceOver.

Meanwhile, a total of 18 per cent of respondents said they used some kind of speech recognition technology, while 15 per cent used readability technology.

The most popular of the readability technologies was Read and Write, which is aimed at people with dyslexia.

Moore said that the survey results would help decide which assistive technologies the team would use to test GOV.UK and what technologies they would advise other departments to test with.

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