COVID-19 and website accessibility


    COVID-19 has created a ‘new normal’ for many people. This involves spending much more time at home and relying on websites to provide access to the outside world; often without the assistance and support of friends and family. Surface Impression is helping the cultural and heritage sectors reach people at home with innovations including online exhibitions, at the same time continuing to focus on the experience of all possible audiences and website users.

    Now more than ever it is essential that websites are as user friendly and accessible as possible – people need to find what they are looking for quickly and intuitively without getting frustrated.

    Jakob Nielsen from Nielsen Norman Group discusses how COVID-19 has made website accessibility more important than ever, particularly for senior citizens. Source: Nielsen Norman Group

    At Surface Impression, we take accessibility seriously. Many of our clients are disability groups and charities, and our experience is reinforced by working with disabled users with access needs, rather than seeing access as a ‘tick box’ exercise. We continually explore ways of making our products as accessible to as many users as possible, according to different needs, preferences and in different contexts. We have established good practice around using the built-in access tools on different devices, including smart phones and tablets. We are all passionate about accessibility, and our work is overseen by a dedicated accessibility specialist, Shelley Boden, who we have worked with for over a decade.

    Over this time we have built up knowledge of the huge range of advice, regulations and guidelines that have emerged from various industry, governmental and NGO bodies. We build our sites and apps with reference to the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium’s) WCAG 2.1 (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines).  We are experienced in ensuring client sites comply with regulations that affect public sector sites in the UK, and elsewhere in Europe and the EU as part of the Web Accessibility Directive.

    At the heart of all of this, the user is central to everything we do, and we regularly test our sites and consult with an access panel of users. Our access knowledge is widely recognized by the cultural and non-profit sectors, and our experience ranges from providing consultancy and training for organisations such as the National Archives, CyMAL (Welsh Museums Archives and Libraries council), BBC, University of Brighton and University of Leicester. Recently Shelley worked as the digital accessibility consultant for RNIB’s Sensing Culture, advising the Oxford Natural History Museum, Lewes Castle, the Beaney Museum and the Conan Doyle Collection at Portsmouth Archives on ways to increase access for blind and partially sighted visitors. This culminated in our presenting at conference and building the site to share resources with other museum professionals.

    Every aspect of websites and digital products need to be accessible: from all aspects of the content, to the design, to the photography. We strongly encourage all our clients to prioritize accessibility in relation to all their digital products, old and new. We are keen to discuss any ideas for increasing the accessibility of your site, to reach all your users on all their devices. 

    Disability Arts International

    Commissioned by the British Council, Disability Arts International promotes the work of disabled artists, disabled-led companies and inclusive arts organisations. It also aims to share the ways arts organisations are increasing access to the arts for disabled people as audiences and visitors.

    Screenshot of Disability Arts International hero image from their website

    Sensing Culture

    We launched the Sensing Culture website in summer 2018 to showcase the HLF funded accessible heritage project lead by The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB).

    Sensing Culture website screenshot - homepage


    VocalEyes help arts organisations identify and remove barriers for access and inclusion for blind and partially sighted people. They deliver around 160-180 live audio-described performances in theatres every year, and provide a range of supporting services to cultural organisations.

    Screenshot of VocalEyes website home page

    Get in touch with us

    Reach out to our team to learn more about how you can provide an inclusive and accessible experience for your audience:

    UK / Europe

    Sally Moorhouse


    Surface Impression Ltd.

    [email protected]

    Canada / USA

    Dr. Amy Hetherington


    Surface Impression (Canada) Ltd.

    [email protected]