From service user to accessibility consultant. How Lauren is helping us create a more user-friendly website
After years of using our services to stay connected with family, work and study, Lauren is now using her professional and lived experience to help Travellers Aid become more accessible to more people.
Lauren first met Travellers Aid as a teenager during a holiday program with what was then known as the Royal Victorian Institute for the Blind (now Vision Australia). But it was while studying and working in Melbourne, that she came to appreciate the range of services.
Having grown up in Ballarat, Lauren often used V/Line trains to travel back home for family visits. While she did not use Travelers Aid’s services every time she travelled, she said it was reassuring to know the assistance was there if she needed it.
“Southern Cross can be quite a noisy, hectic place to navigate and sometimes it’s just nice to get the assistance rather than using your energy to suss out where you need to be and where things are,” Lauren said.
After the long train trip to Melbourne, Lauren preferred to stretch her legs rather than use Travellers Aid’s buggy connection service. But she said the personal guidance from the country platform to her tram stop or taxi rank was often helpful at the busy station.
She also appreciated having a safe, quiet space within the Travellers Aid service hub if she ever needed to wait for her transport.
“Travellers Aid just takes some of the hassle out of the navigation process, which is great, particularly if it is a station you don’t use frequently,” she said.
“It offers different kinds of options depending on what you need, which I think is quite unique compared to other services interstate and even overseas.”
Lauren now lives in New Zealand, but still uses Travellers Aid to connect with public transport services when she visits family in regional Victoria.
And while she uses the services less frequently, Lauren continues to support Travellers Aid in a different way.
Through her digital accessibility consultancy, Lauren is guiding Travellers Aid’s efforts to make its own website more accessible to all its service users.
The website accessibility renovation is at the heart of Travellers Aid’s 2023 fundraising appeal. Lauren said establishing an accessible website is as important as any other service an organisation offers.
“When we think about accessibility, we often think about ramps and automatic doors for people who are in a wheelchair, or braille and large print signage for people who are blind or vision impaired,” Lauren said.
“In the digital space we need the same equivalents, such as good colour contrast, descriptive labels for links and buttons, and the ability to navigate a website without the use of a mouse. ”
She said accessible websites empower people to independently find the information and book the assistance they need online.
“It also increases people’s autonomy and confidence knowing they have choice about how they access the services they need,” she said.
Lauren inspected Travellers Aid’s website and identified how it could better meet international accessibility guidelines and best practice. She also used a screen reader to show the challenges a blind or vision impaired person might experience while using the site.
A web developer is now using the audit results to make the existing site more accessible for Travellers Aid’s diverse community.
Lauren said that while awareness of digital accessibility is growing, progress is not fast enough to keep pace with the evolving internet and artificial intelligence.
“I think some people think people with disability are only a small percentage of their audience and so accessibility is not something they need to consider,” Lauren said.
“This belief excludes 20% of the population. So if you make your site accessible for people with disability, it’s going to be accessible for everyone.”