Show and tell notes - 6 June

Accessibility show and tell

This week’s show and tell included sessions on website accessibility and the Futures Academy project, as well as some discussions around work already published by the service design team. We were also trying out a new, slightly roomier venue in the innovation space which seemed to work quite well.  

Designing for accessibility

Caroline McCabe and Sheila Nicdao, both content Designers in the Service Design team presented the two-parter, “Designing for accessibility”. Caroline had recently attended a training course on the subject at the Government Digital Service and gave an overview of what designing for accessibility is, why it matters, and what we must do to ensure our work does not exclude any users.

Putting it into practice

Caroline showed examples - short video clips - of assistive technologies in practice, emphasising that accessibility is a joint responsibility of the team - not something to be shuffled off to a different department - and flagged forthcoming legislative changes that require government websites to meet stringent accessibility standards. Sheila then went on to demonstrate what this means in practice, and how we’d applied these principles to Adult Social Care website content, reworking the content around paying for care and direct payments, and trying to engage all types of users. As a result developing easy read surveys to engage people with learning disabilities.

Futures Academy

Ian Hutchison and Belen Palacios from FutureGov then talked about the Futures Academy, a program designed to help build people working in the public sector create services that work in a digital age.

It’s going to be trialled in Essex over the next few months - in which a multidisciplinary team from different parts of the organisation will work together on a series of briefs. It’s designed to be a learning experience that gives staff the time and space to experiment with different ways of working. The first instance of this will bring together 8 staff - with different skills - representing the different positions within Corporate Development.

Ian and Belen talked through the programme, that will start with a 1-week design sprint - a short period of intense work - facilitated by FutureGov and will then move into the team running self organised projects with support from FutureGov.

The design sprint
Diagram showing a 5 day sprint

Ian and Belen talked through how the work will be shared, with an introductory blog post so staff in Essex County Council know about the Futures Academy, followed by a daily blog post during the one week design sprint (starting 25 June) and some Show & Tells where they will invite staff to see the work they are doing.

Any learnings, questions and discussion – designing for accessibility

For Caroline, there were some questions about when the new EU legislation comes in (September 2018, with a year to fully comply) and its scope. Someone complimented Sheila for the updated, simpler pages and raised that it would be helpful to let social workers know about these updates, so they can direct citizens to them on their visits.

...and Futures Academy

Ian and Belen were asked what project they would be trialling, and how they would create the space for the team. They explained the process they'd been through to choose an appropriately-sized design challenge, and how heads of department had been asked to suggest potential ones to use. There was a question about how realistic it is to get people in a room together for 5 consecutive days, which lead to a discussion around how organisations manage people taking time off for annual leave, and that this shouldn’t be too different.

These sessions are an opportunity to learn about the work of the service design team, and to make connections between the work we are doing and your work. They are open to all, so drop us an email if you’d like to be added to the invitation list and feel free to forward to colleagues. You can email us on

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