I’ve been working with Ensemble Cymru since 2015, supporting Peryn and his team to update and look after their website. It has been really great to work with such a creative and enthusiastic organisation.
A huge part of Ensemble Cymru’s work is about bringing Welsh communities together to enjoy outstanding music, increase wellbeing and enable positive change… and that commitment extends to our website. We want to make sure that everyone can access our website, so we’ve spent the past few months working on a redesigned website that has access at its heart.
What is web accessibility and why is it important?
Web accessibility is the process of ensuring website content can be accessed by everyone whatever barriers they may face. Some people might be restricted by technology: they may have slow Internet, especially in rural areas like north Wales, or they may be using an older computer running old software.
Some people may have physical challenges. Users might use a mouth wand to operate their computer keyboard or eye tracking software. Others may prefer to use the keyboard because they struggle to hold and point a mouse accurately, or they may have reduced vision and need large clear text. Bright pink text on a purple background may look super funky but it would be totally illegible! Other people access web content with a screen reader that reads out loud the text that’s on their screen, while deaf or hard of hearing users rely on transcripts of audio or video content.
We also need to make sure that the website works for those using the latest smart phone with its touch screen, light sensor, accelerometer, face ID and more! Many modern phones have accessibility features built in now too, like Apple’s VoiceOver screen reader programme or Siri which provides voice activated commands.
The key in designing for accessibility is to always have our users in mind. Our website must be usable whether our users are using a fancy wide screen monitor, or a bells and whistles smart phone. The content must still make sense when viewed on the most basic text version or when accessed using a screen reader (which reads the content out loud for a visually impaired user).
So what have we done?
Visual Design, Colour and Contrast
The accessibility guidelines play an interesting role in the creative process. We explored colour combinations that have sufficient contrast. The bold palette chosen both passes the threshold accessibility values and reflects the vibrancy and passion inherent in this small organisation.
One of the important things to remember about accessibility is that many people who have a disability will be using the same technology as everyone else, but they will be using it in a slightly different way.
As people browse the internet on a whole range of mobile devices, web designers create responsive layouts as a matter of course: we design our pages so they respond to varied screen sizes and resolutions, stretching, shrinking and reorganising content elements accordingly. As well as testing on different screen widths, we also change the text size and test different combinations of font and screen sizes to ensure our layouts don’t break and content is easily readable.
Mouse, Keyboard or Touch
We’ve made sure that all users can interact with content. Many modern devices include touchscreens as well as the more traditional mouse clicks and keyboard controls. All our users can navigate through interactive elements (links, buttons, form entries etc) and select and activate the element as needed.
Images and Alternative Text
For users with visual or cognitive disabilities alternative text (known as alt text) can help them understand the meaning or function of an image. By including alt text on our images, a screen reader will read out the alt text describing the image for the user.
Meeting Web Accessibility Standards
In order to measure Internet accessibility a set of standards have been developed. They are called the ‘Web Content Accessibility Guidelines’ or WCAG. We have decided to use the WCAG double-A Standard to guide the redesign and we’ll be doing a WCAG audit to check all parts of the site meet these standards making Ensemble Cymru’s website accessible to all our users.
Ensuring that everyone can access Ensemble Cymru’s work is really important to us – we’re committed to increasing access and breaking down barriers that prevent people from enjoying music, creativity and collaboration across Wales. We hope you enjoy the new website and if you have any feedback on accessing our website, we’d love to hear from you, and if you’re interested in finding our more about accessibility for web design, you can read Kate’s full blog here:
We are so grateful to the following who helped us make our website accessible because of their support:
- Arts Council of Wales and Welsh Government as part of the Recovery Fund to help the arts sector to continue during the pandemic and to emerge from the pandemic able to meet the aspirations of the cultural contract
- Ensemble Cymru’s individual donors and supporters