Government maps out accessibility career path for digital and data profession

Home Office works with Central Digital and Data Office to put together proposal
Photo: Crown Copyright/Open Government Licence

By Sam Trendall

16 Feb 2022

The government has mapped out a proposal for a dedicated career path within the digital, data and technology profession for accessibility specialists.

The DDaT Profession Capability Framework was established in 2017 to define the common roles that collectively constitute the profession. The guidance initially contained 38 specified roles, and two more have since been added. Posts are divided into six ‘job families’: data; IT operations; product and delivery; quality assurance testing; technical; and user-centred design.

For the each of the 40 roles, the framework provides an introduction to the job and its responsibilities, details the skills needed to perform it, and sets out how civil servants can progress through levels of seniority.

There is currently no government-wide formal career path for digital accessibility specialists. But, according to safeguarding minister Rachel Maclean, the Home Office has developed an internal framework to support the work and progression of the department’s accessibility professionals.

This department has been central in helping to develop a proposal for the implementation of a similar model throughout government. 

“Home Office Officials are working in collaboration with officials from the Cabinet Office’s Central Digital, Data and Technology office and other government departments to gather and build the evidence and business case for a digital accessibility career path within the DDaT profession,” Maclean said.

“An outline proposal has been submitted to the CDDO’s profession management function for consideration and officials are due to meet in the coming weeks to discuss the proposals.”

In recent years, accessibility work has become increasingly important in the development of government’s digital services – not least because, since September 2020, regulation has required all public-sector websites to comply with version 2.1 of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, a set of internationally agreed online accessibility standards.

Research conducted by government over the past two years found that about 99% of public sector websites contained accessibility issues representing a potential problem for users with physical or cognitive impairments – as well as a breach of the new regulatory requirements.

The CDDO, which has formed last year, has taken over the accessibility brief from its Cabinet Office sister agency, the Government Digital Service, which previously employed a team of about 10 specialists. GDS also delivered training on accessibility issues to hundreds of officials across other departments – many of which now have their own dedicated accessibility teams. The east London headquarters of GDS and CDDO also houses an “accessibility empathy lab”, where visitors can use a range of technology to try and better understand the needs and experiences of users with physical or cognitive impairments.

While CDDO considers the proposals for the establishment of an accessibility career path, preparatory work is already taking place to create guidelines for roles.

“Work has begun to scope the roles and supporting framework in anticipation of approval,” Maclean said. “This work will build on the work already done to establish a roles framework for digital accessibility professionals at the Home Office.”

The minister was answering a written parliamentary question from Labour MP Vicky Foxcroft.

Sam Trendall is editor of CSW sister title PublicTechnology, where this story first appeared

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