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Creating a new NHS England: Health Education England, NHS Digital and NHS England have merged. More about the merger.

Providing accessible online services

In the UK, one in five people have a disability - this could be visual, hearing, motor or cognitive (affecting memory and thinking). But the concept of accessibility doesn’t just apply to people with disabilities - all users will have different needs at different times and in different circumstances.

Someone’s ability to use a service could be affected by their:

Someone's ability to use a service could be affected by their location, health or equipment

  • location - they could be in a noisy cafe, sunny park or area with slow wi-fi
  • health - they may be tired, recovering from a stroke or have a broken arm
  • equipment - they could be on a mobile phone or using an older browser

Accessibility is about making sure your service can be used by as many people as possible. Thinking about this from the beginning will help you:

  • make sure that nobody is excluded
  • find out earlier if any parts of your service aren’t accessible

Whether you are building or commissioning an online service, there are tools and standards available to ensure the service is accessible to everyone. You can:

Accessibility doesn’t just apply to people with disabilities - all users will have different needs at different times and in different circumstances

Accessible Information Standard

All organisations that supply NHS care or publicly funded adult social care are legally required to follow the accessible information standard. The standard sets out a specific, consistent approach to identifying, recording, flagging, sharing and meeting the information and communication support needs of patients, service users, carers and parents with a disability, impairment or sensory loss.

Accessibility software

Texthelp works closely with over 60 NHS organisations currently, helping make websites and digital platforms more accessible to all. 

Case studies such as Bridgewater Community Healthcare Trust and Guys and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, show how NHS organisations are using assistive software to make digital services more accessible.

Design principles for digital inclusion

Through service design work in Widening Digital Participation pathfinders a set of principles are being developed for designing for digital inclusion:

  1. Go to where people are
  2. Work with the people who know them best
  3. Co-design: from initial discovery phase to live service and beyond
  4. Build solutions that fit into people’s everyday lives
  5. Use existing tools and resources wherever possible
  6. Outcomes first, then digital
  7. Watch your language

NHS design principles 

The NHS has produced a digital service manual with a set of design principles. Use these when starting any digital project and to guide decision making along the way: 

  1. Put people at the heart of everything you do
  2. Design for the outcome
  3. Be inclusive
  4. Design for context
  5. Design for trust
  6. Test your assumptions
  7. Make, learn, iterate
  8. Do the hard work to make it simple
  9. Make things open. It makes things better

Last edited: 29 July 2021 12:46 pm