HMRC is leading the way for accessible services

Read our blog from Kay, who talks about the work that her team are doing to make tax accessible to all through digital services.

Breaking down barriers

Digital services have made a significant impact on the lives of many in the UK and transformed the way we interact with businesses and connect with those around us. There are 14.1 million people living with a disability and they too, rely on technology to carry out essential tasks in our ever-changing digital world.

We want to make tax easier to pay for everyone, and to do that we need to break down as many barriers as possible, so that everyone can access our services. We do this by taking a user-centred approach, ensuring that our services are designed with all users in mind. 

Making digital services accessible

It goes without saying that 2020 changed the way our customers interacted with our services and engaged with us. Technology bridged many gaps that were left when face-to-face services had to be withdrawn. Many customers rely on digital services to meet their tax obligations. Our colleagues across HMRC also rely on technology to provide knowledgeable customer service whether they are working in the office or remotely from home. With so many people still choosing to access services digitally, the need for accessible digital services became more urgent than ever before.

HMRC employees worked tirelessly through the pandemic to provide services such as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme and the Eat Out to Help Out Scheme. During this time, we considered the following 5 considerations as we designed our services.

1. Do not treat accessibility service design as something extra – all users’ needs are equal

It's about understanding all your service user needs and this includes those who have an access need or may have barriers to accessing the service. Be rigorous when testing your service, support model and your own assumptions about your service users.

2. Make sure your whole team thoroughly understand what accessibility means to our users

Build capability within your team so that user needs are considered end-to-end and are integrated into every aspect of service design. Each member of the team should understand what accessibility means to our end users - regardless of their specific role.

3. Do the research to understand how people need help using the digital service

Assuming what your users’ needs and wants are will lead to poor service design that people will not use. Find out why users don’t currently use your digital service to gather user needs and continue to engage with them throughout the lifespan of the service.

4. Make sure your service meets Web Content Accessibility Guidelines

All government services must now meet the Public Sector Bodies Accessibility Regulations 2018. To make sure you meet these guidelines, carry out automated testing throughout development and do a full accessibility audit before moving to Public Beta.

5. Find effective ways to test for accessibility and iterate throughout development

Continue to do user research and usability testing throughout the project, be receptive to feedback that is gathered, reflect on it and continue to refine your service continuously. Even once the service is live, continue to iterate and improve the service according to changing user needs where possible.

Accessibility is everyone’s responsibility in our organisation, and we understand that the world we live in and the needs of our users are always changing. As such, we continue to consider these points, but will explore how we can support our users, by creating a tax system fit for the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century.

Why work for us?

We are a user-centred organisation which runs one of the biggest digital operations in Government. Designing accessible and inclusive digital services is at the heart of everything we do and our vision is to ensure that the way we work is fair and inclusive of all. We understand that digital accessibility is more than putting things online, it’s about creating inclusive support models that support users and creating formats that fulfil the needs of our diverse users.

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