Core website upgrade cements accessibility commitment

Upgrades to the University’s main website are expected to go live on Wednesday 23 June, reaffirming our pledge to improve digital accessibility.

The upgrades will bring a fresh look and greater functionality for those with digital access needs

A mockup of the new leeds.ac.uk website displaying on a laptop screen.

Visitors to the primary leeds.ac.uk site will soon notice a fresh look, improved site search and greater functionality for those with digital access needs.

The visual refresh and technical refinements are expected to be launched on Wednesday 23 June with fixes and further improvements over subsequent weeks. This comes as the result of many months of work by the Web Accessibility Project team which includes colleagues in the IT and Communications services.

Professor Neil Morris, Interim Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Digital Transformation, said: “The extent of this website upgrade shows our ambition to provide an equal digital experience for everyone at the University.

“Inclusion and reducing inequalities are at the heart of the Digital Transformation Strategy. Providing all students and staff with a level playing field on which to learn and work, irrespective of disability or other circumstances, is something to which we’re strongly committed.”

The catalyst for change was our need to comply with The Public Sector Bodies Accessibility Regulations 2018. The regulations require public sector organisations to provide a web experience that’s equally usable, no matter someone’s physical or cognitive ability. This has been executed at Leeds by not simply fixing but fully reworking the building blocks of the site to create a new design system – a move rooted in embracing the challenge and using it as an opportunity to make strategic improvements to how we build and maintain our entire web estate. Other sites will be similarly updated in the coming months, and new processes are in place to help assess the accessibility of web-based applications and systems.

As well as a website that functions better with assistive devices and software, such as screen readers, all staff and students will benefit from these changes. For example, the main website will also be updated with a broader and more powerful internal search.

Professor Morris added: “We knew following the last website change several years ago that the search function could be enhanced. The team has been working hard to improve the search and give users results from other University sites. This will give everyone faster, easier access to information.

“Although much of the site’s surface content – the words and pictures – will translate to the new site as-is, there’s a great deal of new code that will be unseen to many but make an enormous difference to the thousands of disabled members of our University community.”

As well as adjusted presentation of items such as tables and navigation elements, colleagues will notice the new site gradually improve further over the weeks and months following launch as content and features are tweaked.

Feedback from colleagues is being used to help improve guidance on creating and maintaining accessible content, whether internal or external. More details will be available closer to release.

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