2) UK NSC accessibility

UK NSC accessibility: Developing document guidelines & templates for accessible web publishing

During my time coordinating the development and delivery of the UK NSC’s new digital service on GOV.UK, I led our accessibility workstreams and drove forward our transition towards being a more accessible and inclusive digital service.

Part of this included overhauling the UK NSC’s document publishing workflow for commissioned policy and consultation papers, meetings and minutes posted on the website, and the way in which the commissioning team work with external document authors and suppliers.

An image showing the policy papers and consultations page of the UK NSC website.
The UK NSC’s published documents can be found either from the homepage (not pictured) or by searching GOV.UK (above).

For this, I undertook a range of tasks to update the team’s suite of document templates and content guidelines. I collaborated with evidence review managers, policy experts and organisational stakeholders to ensure the content conveyed key information and met user needs and organisational requirements. My approach was to combine the latest web accessibility guidelines with core content design principles to reformat existing documents into clearer, more usable versions.

The result of this work was an increase in content and formatting consistency across the team’s published documents, a measured increase in accessibility compliance, and ultimately clearer, more user-friendly and inclusive documents across the organisation’s digital output. Below are some examples.

An image showing the accessible documents policy on the UK NSC website.
Documents published on GOV.UK must meet government accessibility regulations, and are covered by the UK NSC accessible documents policy (pictured).

Supplier accessibility guidelines

I developed and produced these content guidelines to be followed by external document authors and commissioned suppliers. Since many of the UK NSC’s policy papers and published documents come from a range of external suppliers, we needed a consistent and comprehensive set of accessibility-led content guidelines to share with all suppliers. This meant we could ensure standardised and consistent content across all channels, in line the objectives of the new digital service.

View the supplier accessibility guidelines I developed for document authors.

A screengrab showing the UK NSC supplier accessibility guidelines.
A screengrab showing the supplier accessibility guidelines I developed for the UK NSC. These cover content and formatting considerations for documents to be published on GOV.UK.

UK NSC research coversheets

The UK NSC publishes a ‘coversheet’ along with all commissioned evidence reviews and research papers. This top-level document is critical in providing a comprehensive overview of the research, used by a wide array of internal and external stakeholders to understand the outcomes and influences of the UK NSC’s work. My task was to reformat the coversheet template for accessibility, however I deployed a range of content design approaches to update the way in which the document conveyed key information. This included removing an unnecessary numbered list format in favour of sub-headings and short paragraphs, removing tables containing long page-breaking paragraphs in favour of a concise bulleted list, and providing a table of contents for document users to easily navigate to the specific content they need.

View a UK NSC research coversheet that uses the template I developed.

An annotated before-and-after image of a reformatted UK NSC coversheet template.
An annotated before-and-after image of the coversheet template I reformatted for accessibility and usability.

Meetings and minutes

The agenda and minutes from meetings held triannually by the UK NSC, which were published and circulated as PDFs at the time, also needed updating and reformatting for accessibility. I employed the same approach as the coversheets, resulting in clearer and more user-friendly documents. I later collaborated with content designers on the team to transition these publications into HTML content rather than PDFs, in line with the government’s initiative to move away from PDF-centric publishing practices. I used the GOV.UK CMS Whitehall Publisher to help produce these new pages.

View the UK NSC meetings and minutes page on GOV.UK.

An annotated before-and-after image of a reformatted UK NSC meeting agenda template.
An annotated before-and-after image of the meeting agenda template I reformatted for accessibility and usability.

Accessible non-HTML forms

While we developed multiple HTML forms to address user needs across the digital service, we also needed a backup of non-HTML forms for a few requests that the UK NSC might get outside of conventional digital approaches to policy consultations from stakeholders and the public. As a GOV.UK digital service, it’s also necessary to provide accessible versions of key documents on request. I researched the best way to provide interactive accessible PDF forms, while consulting with third-party accessibility experts to develop our approach. This led me to produce a mixture of interactive PDF forms and open document forms that users can fill in and send back.

An image showing a UK NSC consultation form.
Users are presented with an option to download a non-HTML response form in Open Document Format, as an alternative to the online form to take part in a consultation.


UK NSC consultations


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