Digital accessibility at the heart of the myBupa web design
Having seen first-hand the value of making websites accessible to people with a disability, Bupa Front End Developer Megan Bouchier is a passionate advocate for ensuring everyone can use Bupa's online resources. She and her team have put accessibility at the heart of myBupa's coding and design.
For many people, browsing the web is a part of their everyday routine, perhaps staying up to date with the latest news and current affairs, checking out online sales or seeing what friends are up to on social media.
But not for Megan Bouchier.
Whenever she's online, Megan will routinely dive straight under the hood to see if websites are making themselves accessible to all users.
"One in five Australians have a disability and that is a substantial statistic," she says.
"Independence is extremely important for everyone and having access to information and services online is critical in supporting this." Megan is a front-end developer with the Digital Team and joined Bupa in 2016 to help create the new myBupa online 'self-service' platform for members.
"Before my job interview, I checked out the existing Bupa website to see if the functionality was accessible," says Megan.
So when I asked in the interview whether accessibility was important to Bupa, because I'd found ways that I thought I could help, I was delighted with the positive response, which at the time wasn't always the case with other companies I'd worked for.
Megan first understood the importance of online accessibility in 2012, when working for a small digital agency. They were tasked with building a new festival program website for Arts Access Victoria (the state's leading arts and disability organisation), that had to achieve a 'AA' level of compliance as a minimum.
"We were really thrown into the deep end, as we were all brand new to the standards, but I loved the challenge from the outset," says Megan.
"When it was finished, we saw the impact of inclusion first hand, and it was just so inspiring to see the value of building features that cater to all needs."
With a desire to work on bigger projects that could positively impact more people, Megan decided she needed to move from the small digital agency to a larger corporate environment. Bupa felt like a natural fit, being a health and care company whose values aligned with Megan's as well as matching the careers of her wider family, with her mum working in aged care and a sister as an Occupational Therapist.
So, starting with a clean slate to 're-platform' Bupa's web applications onto a modern platform, Megan and her colleagues took the opportunity to put accessibility at the heart of myBupa's coding and design.
MyBupa is Bupa's member self service area, helping health insurance customers easily manage and understand their health cover.
We had people on the team with practical experience in accessibility and this was especially important considering myBupa is highly transactional, with lots of intertwining parts and actions that are dynamic and heavily reliant on visuals and user interactions
At the very beginning, the team put the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), the global standards for websites to follow, at the heart of the development process and aimed for 'AA' level compliance.
"I was concerned that the WCAG guidelines wouldn't support the complex requirements of myBupa," says Megan. "But I'm delighted to say they did, and that shows how great they are. Most find the WCAG guidelines quite dry, but I love them!"
As the project progressed, the team constantly performed manual testing, including using only the keyboard for all actions rather than a mouse, and using a 'screen reader', to hear how the content sounded when it was read out aloud.
"We kept asking ourselves, 'does the tab order make sense?' or 'if I open a pop up, will my keyboard focus move to the opened content allowing me to continue seamlessly?' or 'do I even know I've opened a pop up on the screen if I can't see it?'."
When the project was at certain level of functionality, with a variety of features ready for further testing, the development team called in the experts.
"At a fairly early stage of the development process, to ensure we hadn't gone too far, we reached out to Vision Australia for further support," explains Megan.
We received very positive feedback from Vision Australia, which gave us confidence in our approach. This validated that we were on the right path, and being early on in the project meant we could apply any fixes and enhancements across all future development
With myBupa now up and running, and closely following the guidelines set out for Level AA, the team are kept busy building new features and enhancements, all designed with accessibility at the heart of the process. And as a further point of validation, further areas of Bupa, not necessarily associated with the digital team, are reaching out for support and advice on accessibility.
"The interest and traction we are getting from the broader business to address initiatives around accessibility is really exciting, giving us opportunities to keep developing new and diverse ideas and broaden the scope much further throughout all of Bupa," says Megan.
Megan's work has helped us realise this Newsroom needs improvement too when it comes to digital accessibility - and we know exactly who to turn to for help.
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