Town Walk app and the Accessibility Regulations 2018
AUTHOR: RAFI ILIVITZKY, MANAGING DIRECTOR AT TRAILTALE
With 87% of the adult population in the UK owning a mobile phone, and the advance in mobile phone technology, it is only natural to make Town Walking Trails available for visitors using smartphones. Over the last few years, there has been a growing tendency for town councils to develop mobile apps that feature their town’s heritage trail.
However, new regulations that were published by the government in 2018, based on previous UK Parliament as well as European Parliament acts, make it an obligation for newly developed websites and mobile apps to be accessible, to reach as many people as possible. This means improving apps and websites to help people with different access needs, including impaired vision, restricted mobility, learning disabilities and more, to be able to use these apps and websites. With at least 1 in 5 people in the UK having a long-term illness, impairment or disability, it is important to ensure that the mobile app created or chosen to be used for publishing the town trails, complies with these rules.
Designing a mobile app that only provides audio guides, or an augmented reality feature creates a situation where some people cannot enjoy the town trail walking experience through the mobile app. So, how much can be done to comply with the new regulations, and help as many people as possible to enjoy their town’s trail?
Helping people with impaired vision can be done by adding audio clips that narrate the walking directions and points of interest (POIs). An additional and detailed description of the images at each site through the screen narrator, to help provide a picture of the historically rich route.
For people with mobility issues, adding alternative access information as part of the walking instructions will make it easier for them to enjoy the route with all the visitors.
For those people who are constrained to their home, adding as many images as possible, depicting diagrams and 360 panoramic images of the internal space of places (where appropriate), will help them enjoy the walk as if they were following it physically.
Finally, apps that are designed with simplicity as a key requirement, will allow people with cognitive impairments or learning disabilities to enjoy the trails as well.
TrailTale was designed with all these provisions in mind. Our recent work for Bolton Borough utilised all the features mentioned above: Audio clips for all the POIs descriptions, ‘Alt Text’ descriptions for all the images, alternative access instructions, and even video clips were created and published on YouTube featuring all the routes, to allow people limited to their homes to enjoy Bolton’s walking trails.
Today, there is no longer a need to compromise on how the town walk is developed and featured. Paper-based walk guides are no longer fit for purpose. Councils must consider developing their own town walk mobile app, that can provide all the accessibility features listed.