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What about the user?

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For many years, we’ve said that good technology is based on user needs. This is true for both digital public service and the technology that civil servants use to do their jobs.

But no two users are the same. We can’t think about the needs of just one user, or even a group of users. For technology to be user-focused, it has to be designed for everyone. This includes people with visual, hearing, cognitive and physical disabilities and impairments. It also applies to people who are unwilling or unable (due to things like low digital skills) to use technology or digital services.

In the Technology Group, we focus on the technology that underpins public service delivery. We’re talking about desktops. Mobile phones. Printing. Network services like WAN or LAN. Software like human resources and case management systems. How can we make sure that these technologies are accessible to all users?

Follow the code

The Technology Code of Practice (TCoP) was published in November 2013. It is a statement of what good tech looks like, and is what the Controls team use to assess government technology plans.

We’re currently re-writing the TCoP. We want to take into account how much progress has been made over the past few years, as well as some of the lessons we’ve learnt from the controls process. We’re working on it internally at the moment, and will be opening it up to external review in the coming weeks. On Global Accessibility Awareness Day, we wanted to share one of our early decisions with you.

The new TCoP will make accessibility a specific requirement for government tech. It states clearly and simply that systems and services must be designed for a diverse set of users. This includes those with disabilities and impairments, and those who need assisted digital support.

We’re making a clear statement of how important we think this issue is. We want world class technology for the civil service. To do this, we need to make sure that every government employee’s needs are met. Departments going through the controls process will have to explain how they’re ensuring their technology plans are accessible. Those that aren’t will need to change what they’re doing.

Putting accessibility first

If you care about your users, accessibility should come as standard. That’s why it will be so central to the next TCoP.

We’re keen to hear your thoughts on accessibility. We want to know what challenges you've faced, and what else you think we can be doing to ensure government technology is as accessible as possible. Leave you comment below.

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