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Water Utility Drives Digital Accessibility for Everyone

The client situation

On 1 July 2021, City West Water and Western Water merged to form a new water corporation – Greater Western Water (GWW). 

GWW delivers water services across Melbourne’s CBD, inner and north-west suburbs, through the Melton and Sunbury growth corridors, and to Bacchus Marsh and Macedon Ranges.
Over the next 30 years, Melbourne’s west is expected to double in population. This rapid growth has necessitated GWW to develop enhanced ways of working and engaging with customers to ensure high-quality, affordable and secure water services well into the future.

GWW recognises the benefit of customer first thinking and has already developed many digital capabilities to support the provisioning of services to their growing customer base.

The challenge

The newly formed GWW organisation recognised the value and opportunity in building on what they had already developed and creating a world class digital accessibility offering to all of their customers.

Under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992, Australian Government agencies and Australian businesses are required to ensure information and services are provided in a non-discriminatory accessible manner. WCAG 2.0 is a technical standard developed under the Web Accessibility Initiative of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

But by not meeting WCAG standards, companies risk excluding people with disabilities from their digital offerings or burdening them with inconsistent accessibility features. With this in mind, GWW wanted to build out and enhance their Digital Accessibility capabilities within their customer facing website(s), portal(s) and within all external facing content for all of their customers.

 

The solution

Building on the current Digital Accessibility capabilities already in place at GWW, the organisation planned to enhance customer facing digital capabilities.

Alchemy were engaged to lead and design the new Digital Accessibility User Experience (UX) and User Interfaces (UI) and to recommend methods that would enhance and expedite delivery of Digital Accessibility ongoing.

Our Digital Accessibility expertise combined with our experience in delivering a broad range of Digital Accessibility projects, Alchemy provided resources and knowledge to partner with GWW to deliver new Digital Accessibility designs and features.

The solution involved two clear methods of collaboration to ensure successful delivery. Both methods of collaboration were hands-on and within existing GWW team constructs to expedite knowledge transfer.
Our first method of collaboration was to take GWW’s existing development lifecycle and identify when, where and why it would use UX and UI practices and Digital Accessibility checkpoints.

Alchemy held workshops with senior digital stakeholders at GWW to identify all the strands within their digital vision; this included the creation of a set of best practice guidelines, the requirements and the creation of the internal Digital Accessibility System. 

The Digital Accessibility System was created to extend to all relevant external organisations and encourage a unified and practical approach to any future interaction with Digital Accessibility UX and UI.

The set of documents and training assets for public facing documents, created assists both GWW’s internal digital managers and third party partners to make sure accessibility is promoted at all stages of design and development of digital projects.

The results

Alchemy successfully designed and delivered the WCAG compliant GWW Digital Accessibility capabilities focusing on high-quality user experience. As a result we have helped GWW to effectively:

  • Ensure WCAG compliance and maintain compliance amid merging of digital assets
  • Support internal teams to maintain and evolve its digital vision in an evolving market landscape.
  • Review existing digital functionality and content, as well as assess all new projects across GWW with standard terms of reference.
  • Assist in delivery of projects in line with digital accessibility guidelines.
  • Put Digital Accessibility at the forefront of the organisations thinking and values, continuously advising on design and development cycles.

As a strategic Digital Accessibility partner, we have been instrumental in helping GWW work towards its organisational goal of achieving WCAG 2.0 Level AA compliance.

Together we have developed a formal Digital Accessibility Policy and set of guidelines that can be used internally and with external stakeholders, to embed best practice within digital design and development lifecycles.

Our team continues to work with GWW to help nurture Digital Accessibility across the organisation and support the internal team to take a more user-centric approach within their work.

Our support includes developing solid foundations through Digital Accessibility reviews, strategy development and crucial testing. We also provide consultancy and training to support teams as required.

We work closely with both GWW and its third party suppliers to support continuous improvement of Digital Accessibility and usability for all stakeholders.

Final thoughts

Alchemy’s key GWW sponsor wrote:

“The Alchemy team we engaged have demonstrated digital accessibility leadership and know-how to team with GWW and enable digital inclusion and digital accessibility for our customers. Alchemy has been professional, passionate and a pleasure to partner with for this critical initiative.

Brining our experience in delivering a broad range of digital accessibility projects, Alchemy have partnered with GWW and delivered digital accessibility for everyone.

Utilising Alchemy’s checklist guide to developing a Digital Accessibility Strategy our expert team and GWW were able to follow our proven approach which is summarised below:

  1. Determine your website and digital collateral accessibility scope.
  2. Fix the automatically detectable errors.
  3. Manually test key pages, templates, user flows, and forms each year.
  4. Identify and plan for videos and non-HTML documents.
  5. Include an Accessibility Statement on every page of all websites.
  6. Test all new content using WAVE as it is created.
  7. Start with accessibility in mind when updating your website template(s).
  8. Consider the accessibility of all new software purchased.
  9. Simple ongoing Accessibility Training for web creators.
  10. Develop content management and compliance policies in line with accessibility.
  11. Monthly cadence of automated testing of each page on your website and digital collateral.

This outline, if followed, will enable your organisation to exponentially improve the accessibility of website(s) and digital content quickly. Digital Accessibility isn’t achieved by simply adding a plug-in to your website(s), but it can be achieved by simply engaging expert Digital Accessibility practitioners who can enrich the capability of your teams in addition to delivering accessibility improvements immediately.