The City of Turku has committed to improving digital accessibility in the long term. Developing these processes requires a lot of work, something Eficode has been delighted to help with in their role as a selected partner in accessibility.

Ever since the renewal project back in 2015, accessibility requirements (WCAG) have been a stable part of Turku city communications officials’ everyday work. But as the years went by and the accessibility directive started coming into effect, the spring of 2018 saw the special digital accessibility project planning begin. Sufficient funds were granted, and the project kicked off at the beginning of 2019 with two part-time workers: a specialist and a project manager.

Training, testing – and then training and testing some more!

The City of Turku chose Eficode as one of their partners for accessibility. Since then, we have arranged accessibility training, evaluated websites, and offered general support across all accessibility-related topics and questions.

In order to ensure that all personnel had sufficient knowledge surrounding accessibility, a total of 45 training sessions (formed predominantly of lectures and workshops) were arranged. Internal accessibility work was also carried out – there are now special accessibility guidelines for content production, document templates, and brand colors.

Currently all digital services are audited before fixes are done, with accessibility statements updated accordingly. Product owners and web administrators are responsible for fixing the services either themselves or through a consultancy, depending on their schedules and resources. Bigger digital services have been audited or tested again following necessary work or repairs.

When developing new services, the objective is that an accessibility specialist from either the City of Turku or the vendor is closely involved throughout the process in order to ensure it meets requirements. The aim is that accessibility actions do not stop when the audit is complete.

It takes a village

Besides the project personnel and steering group members, there is a special “accessibility network” of around 30 people from different sectors – most of whom are in charge of various digital services in the City of Turku.

Communications professionals, especially web specialists, content producers and graphic designers, play a key role in the project. They work together with product owners, web administrators, and developers.

Advertising agencies and subcontracted developers are also involved in the project.

Developing accessibility requires tools

The main tool the city uses is Siteimprove, which is used across all digital services. Furthermore, Color Contrast Analyzer and WebAim Color Checker are used to ensure sufficient color contrasts, while accessibility tools in Office 365 and PDF software are also deployed.

Eficode consultants have conducted site audits with tools including screen readers (NVDA, VoiceOver), Wave, Adobe Acrobat Pro DC, Stylus, aforementioned contrast checkers, and several browser-specific features.

Developing a process for accessibility is continuous work

Learning new things and implementing information in a big organization is a slow process, one which sometimes requires pressuring and continuous repetition –- training alone is not enough. Fixing old systems can be hard, and often it’s better to invest in a new one rather than getting bogged down in attempting to fix the issues in the current system. 

Even though the impact of COVID-19 has meant more work for city communications officials, thus slowing down content updates, some individuals have really taken accessibility to heart. They have been guiding work spontaneously, gathering information and expertise independently, and their output and good practices have been shared city-wide.

In order to avoid mistakes being made over and over again, coordinating accessibility activities has to be done on a city level, even though the responsibility is shared between product owners. 

There are tried and tested benefits in long-term collaboration and accessibility partnerships, as opposed to one-off projects. In this particular case study, the City of Turku has received the help they need through workshops, and have not been left alone with their accessibility fixes. 

Right now the future looks bright. Following the completion of  the project, the City of Turku will have its own accessibility coordinator – while Eficode continues to fulfil the role as their chosen accessibility partner.