I wanted to give Community a glimpse into some of the work we’ve been doing this week to ensure an important service we offer is made as accessible as possible to the people that need it.
We have been testing designs for the sign-up flow for the Priority Services Register (PSR). The PSR is something all energy suppliers are required by OFGEM to keep and enables us to identify who, in the instance of a power cut, requires priority reconnection. This might be, for example, because you rely on electrified medical equipment, have a disability or have young children or are over 60. What it means in practice is that we share this information with the network operators and in a power cut they are aware who on a particular street might be more in need of support and why.
The sign-up to this register requires us asking for sensitive data and we want to make sure we are doing this, well, sensitively.
Also - we realise that in some instances, if you are trying to use the form to join our register, you might be more likely to have accessibility issue with web forms - for example, you might have a visual impairment, a mobility issue or learning difficulty that makes using online forms a bit trickier for you.
In order understand how our designs are working we have been testing it with 6 people who would qualify for the priority services register and have an accessibility issue of some description. When doing this kind of testing it is really important you see people using their own equipment in their own environment, as they may be using some adaptations, special pieces of software or have other unique behaviours around how they use a computer or smart phone. So we visited people at home - we spent time getting to know them and then observed them using our web tools.
We’ve learned lots about the priority services register itself. Interestingly, a key thing is its very name. This is what OFGEM and other suppliers call it - but we found people often feel awkward putting themselves at the front of the queue (we’re British after all ). One man we spoke to with a severe visual impairment, but otherwise fit and healthy, felt very uncomfortable with the idea of being reconnected ahead of his elderly neighbours and yet at the same time felt it would be helpful if the network operator was aware of him and his eyesight issues so they could respond appropriately when needed. So we are wondering to ourselves whether we need refer to the register with a name that relates to information sharing as opposed to directly referencing the issue of priority.
We also learned a lot about some of our common design elements and the way certain accessibility tools ‘reads them’ We found for example the font in our emails does not respond to tools designed to make text more bold (and so easier to read when magnified). We also found that our lovely illustrations that we include on our emails are simply read as ‘link’ :o and therefore people are missing out on the additional context these bring to a particular piece of communication.
We will be using all these insights over the next few weeks to improve the design of our register join-up form. As well as taking the learnings and applying them to other parts of the Bulb experience B) .
We would love to hear from you if you have experienced any difficulties using our web tools or app because you have an accessibility issue of some sort. We’re always keen to test our products and perhaps can get you involved in future research? Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re keen.
We’d also be interested in any thoughts you have about the priority register. Is it something you know about? Or have any experience of? We’d love to hear your thoughts