We live in a digital world where we can organise our lives and access information on with a tap of a keyboard or screen. But for those with additional access requirements and/or disabilities, navigating the internet is not always easy.
Helping to redress the balance is the Digital Accessibility Centre, where thousands of websites and online services have been put through their paces by a specialist team who make sure they can be accessed by everyone and across a plethora of digital platforms.
Under the 2010 Equality Act, anyone providing goods and services has to make sure all can utilise those services, but even the biggest companies and organisations can unwittingly fall-short of their accessibility obligations.
A Social Enterprise – limited by guarantee and operating on a 100% not-for-profit basis – the Digital Accessibility Centre (DAC) was formed in 2010 by Cam Nicholl and Gavin Evans, and has as its motto ‘Because Everyone Matters’.
Based at the Darcy Business Park in Llandarcy, DAC has grown steadily and currently employs 36 staff, including seven technical auditors and 26 user testers. The office’s close proximity to the M4 makes it ideal for visiting clients and staff members who travel from all over the UK.
Most of DAC’s team members have disabilities, and testing is carried out for a platform’s suitability for a range of impairments including visual, hearing, and mobility, cognitive, Asperger’s, and anxiety/panic disorders.
Clients have access to a range of digital accessibility testing and review services including design reviews, template testing, audit and certification, accessibility training, consultancy, AccessIN feedback tool and the most recent addition – the creation of bespoke e-learning accessibility modules.
DAC has an impressive client list that includes blue-chip and multi-national companies as well as government departments and banks.
The enterprise’s first customer was Channel 4, and since then DAC has provided services to a host of household names including retailers Tesco and Next, communications providers Vodaphone, Three and BT, also bodies such as The Law Society, and the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
Their clients span continents too, with several companies in America and Australia utilising DAC’s services.
Says DAC’s director of sales and services department, Cam Nicholl, “We are in a good position in that we are able to influence positive change to the benefit of disabled people.
“We have been so lucky, our team is brilliant, dedicated, patient and professional, we have a large reach of customers, and we are in a good position in that our client base is spread evenly across the sectors. “As a company we hope to continue to grow our staff numbers, and maybe even buy or build our own offices.”
Testing is carried out in line with The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.1) as per UK and other international government’s recommendations, added to which is applied ‘a healthy dose of common sense’ which provides ‘real life’ accessibility advice and guidance.
“We really do make a difference,” says Senior Accessibility Analyst
Ziad Khan, who as DAC’s brand ambassador promotes awareness of digital accessibility at conferences and events across the UK.
For Ziad, who has 5% vision, the work done at DAC has a personal effect too.
He says, “I go home and use websites or Apps on which we have worked. The testing we do means developers can make changes and adaptations so people like me can use the sites.
“When we go home, we experience the tangible effects which make a difference to the quality of our lives.
“I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity of being able to work in an industry where we can make so much difference to other people.”
Voice Activation Analyst, Rebecca Morgan, who has been with DAC from its inception works with visiting clients to highlight issues and improve their services. She says, “It may be a small change to them, but it means a world of difference to someone else.”
A Living Wage Foundation-accredited employer, DAC has received support from Darcy Business Park’s developers St Modwen, and Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council - and won the award for customer service at the 2018 NPT Business Awards.
Says CAM, “NPTCBC have been great, they have helped us with numerous things including part funding for equipment such as computers and privacy pods.”
Commenting on the enterprise’s relationship with NPTCBC DAC’s director of operations, Gavin Evans says, “The Regeneration & Economic Development unit provides the Digital Accessibility Centre with the support and access to services that help us to develop as a Social Enterprise. This relationship is extremely important to us.
“The access to funding and business support has helped us to take the company into the next stage of growth. It also enables us to further our business objectives, and employ individuals with disabilities within the local area, furthering our mission and objectives.”