Working with residents to improve online services

Derwent Living has been working with one of its residents to help to make its website easier to use for people who have visual impairments.

The Derby-based housing provider has been working in consultation with Littleover resident Bob Bhogal, 37, to ensure that its’ online services can be accessed by people who can’t necessarily rely on their sight.

Bob, who is blind and has a minimal 2-3% of what would be considered full sight, has been a Derwent Living resident for nearly seven years.

He says: “From the moment I moved in to my flat, Derwent Living has always provided me with alternative ways to take in information. I was really impressed when I initially received my tenancy and it was in brail, I think some people take for granted that all companies go out of their way to offer literature in alternative formats, but that’s just not the case. I’ve rented from other housing providers, and they’ve only offered me large print as an alternative. Shortly after I moved in I started receiving the resident newsletter on tape, so I knew that some real thought had gone in to making sure everyone could access any literature available.”

“Since Derwent Living created its Facebook page, I’ve relied on that heavily to find out what’s happening, as I have the technology at home which enables me to hear what’s on the screen. Social networking has been a blessing as it enables me to find information when I need to really quickly.”

Bob is a member of the Derwent Living operational performance committee and when the marketing team decided to revamp the website, Bob was approached by a member of staff and asked to help with making the site more accessible for people who are visually impaired.

“The new website is designed to work using screen reader technology. Basically, as you move your cursor around the screen, it is connected to a synthetic voice synthesizer which tells the user what is on the screen. I was tasked with making sure it worked properly, for instance, if it didn’t pick something up, then I had to feedback to Derwent Living and say what the problem was. The technology is great, and will also tell you what a picture is of. The designer simply embeds a tag on the graphic, saying what the picture is. This tag isn’t visible to anyone else, but the software is able to identify what the graphic is through the speech software.”

Bob regularly browses the Derwent Living site and also tests that any online forms work properly.

Bob adds: “It’s great that Derwent Living has invested the time and money making sure the website can be accessed by anyone, and I’m really pleased that I’ve been able to help.”

Peter McCormack, chief executive of Derwent Living says: “Making sure that all customers have access to services and any company information is a vital part of providing good customer service. We work with residents in a number of areas to ensure that we use their feedback to shape services to suit their needs. Bob has been a great help, and integral in making sure the website can be accessed easily by visually impaired customers.”