AbilityNet: What are the BBC accessibility champions?
Emma Pratt-Richens: A growing network of people who champion accessibility and share relevant knowledge across BBC departments and teams. Champions are encouraged to complete training courses, access resources and communicate with each other to increase their understanding of accessibility and share it with their teams. They are the people who ask questions about accessibility day-to-day and at all stages of projects so that we can build accessibility into everything and not just make it an afterthought.
What is your own accessibility experience?
I’ve been at the BBC for 12 years - most of that as a front-end developer. Accessibility was something I first encountered in a previous role at a borough council, and became a key part of the work I did. Around four years ago I changed team and became an accessibility specialist.
What sort of accessibility training is on offer at the BBC?
Training isn’t exclusively for champions, it’s for anyone in a digital role at the BBC. We have an online course which offers a concise introduction to accessibility for developers and testers. There’s a full-day face-to-face course for designers and researchers too, which is mandatory for everyone in the User Experience & Design department. There’s a full-day face-to-face course introducing screen readers. AbilityNet developed and delivers that session for us. And we provide more hands-on support and customised sessions on request, e.g. around alt text, WAI-ARIA, switch devices, focus groups, and interactive content like games.
With technology changing so quickly, how do champions stay up-to-date?
There are always new ways and new approaches and different talks we can go to. Different people take interest in different areas and then share their knowledge. For example, currently Jamie Knight is looking at mixed reality, I’m talking with others who are developing understanding around voice control and Alexa, and our colleague Michael Mathews is focussed on new ways share our knowledge. Sharing is key. Another approach is focussed support. For example, there has been much more HTML/JS interactive content coming out in the last few years, so we’ve worked closely with the Children’s Games, Visual Journalism and the Bitesize teams.
How big is the accessibility team at the BBC?
There are five of us looking after audience products, and a few other smaller teams focussed on different aspects of accessibility. We do training and hands on support where we can. We do a lot of conversations, email, online chats, and sharing knowledge. We’re constantly learning more, because a lot of the time the BBC is breaking new ground, and we will also look to gov.uk or Barclays, or the Guardian, as they may have done research we can learn from.