UX and Design

Designing inclusive, accessible services: lessons from the Public Sector

24 October 2023 • 2 min read


Ensuring that government services are accessible to all is a fundamental responsibility. Citizens depend on these services in their daily lives, underscoring the necessity of creating inclusive, accessible platforms. Government Digital Service (GDS) and the Central Digital and Data Office (CDDO) have been at the forefront of developing guidelines and support to make this a reality.


Why are inclusivity and accessibility important?


Every member of the public must have access to government services when they need them. The essence of inclusivity and accessibility lies in the acknowledgment that individuals with varying abilities and needs rely on these services. Meeting the GOV.UK Service Standard is central to designing services that work for everyone.


How do we design services to be more inclusive and accessible?


The importance of Universal Barriers


In striving for inclusivity, a critical framework is the concept of Universal Barriers - which was developed by Ben Carpenter. Rather than addressing specific forms of inclusion separately, this framework encourages a holistic approach. It entails identifying and minimising the various barriers that any user may encounter when interacting with a service. Government Digital Service (GDS) identified 11 fundamental barriers that encompass a wide array of challenges users might face, from lack of awareness to trust issues related to technology and organisations.


Applying inclusive, accessible design to a training service for the early years workforce


Understanding the barriers our users face


In the pursuit of an inclusive early years child development training service, understanding the barriers that childminders, nursery practitioners, and reception staff may encounter is paramount. This training service was conceived as a response to the educational impact of COVID-19, aiming to strengthen the early years workforce’s child development knowledge, so they are able to provide the best early education and therefore improve outcomes for all children aged 0-5.


Building awareness to break down barriers


Few in the sector are aware of this new service, limiting its use. The service is optional, and potential users have alternative training options available. To address this, collaboration with policy teams and local authorities is essential to utilise existing communication channels and inform users about the service.

Time constraints are another barrier. Many users lacked the luxury of uninterrupted training time. Research revealed that training modules needed to be brief, ideally lasting a few hours, and designed to allow users to pause and restart without losing progress.


Conclusion: working towards a more inclusive future


Reviewing and aligning our work with the universal barriers framework facilitated a more nuanced understanding of the challenges our users face when accessing the service. The lessons learned were shared with the broader UK Government user research community to encourage the adoption of this framework in future projects. Embracing the universal barriers framework from the project's inception will undoubtedly propel us toward the creation of increasingly accessible and inclusive government services.

Technology has the power to transform the way our country delivers public services, to facilitate a more equitable and inclusive future for all. As a trusted digital delivery partner for the Public Sector, we’re working to make that transformation a reality. Visit our Public Sector page to learn more.

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