The BBC is the world’s leading public service broadcaster. Its mission is to enrich people’s lives with programmes that inform, educate and entertain. From its values to place audiences at the heart of all they do and celebrate diversity, the BBC aim to achieve a consistently high level of usability and accessibility across all their digital services. And they try and do this in a way that reinforces that creativity is the lifeblood of the organisation.
Our founder, Jonathan Hassell, as Head of Usability & Accessibility at the BBC from 2008 to 2011, was tasked with delivering on this corporate mission, to prove the value of accessibility to the BBC, and to sustain and grow the corporation’s commitment to inclusion over time.
While for many organisations improving the bottom line is a key business goal, as a public service the BBC’s goals were more to prove the value it provided to the fee-paying general public. So Jonathan and his team brainstormed how accessibility could deliver value to them.
Five potential ways of delivering ROI were identified:
- Maximising the audience for existing services: Jonathan’s team believed that by improving the accessibility of BBC websites this would maximise the sites’ audience and so improve their cost per user reached.
- Minimising reputational and financial risk and the costs of dealing with customer complaints: As a publicly-funded service, the BBC gets a huge amount of feedback from its individual users, regulators, and organisations that represent groups of users. It is held to a high degree of scrutiny, so any slips in the consistency of accessibility could result in high public relations costs.
- Positive reputational value via sharing best practice publicly: Having been part of the team responsible for creating the PAS-78 Standard in 2006, sharing BBC best practice in accessibility was important.
- Positive reputational value via winning awards: Securing external recognition for the team’s work could help prove its value internally and to the general public.
- Ensuring people know the good you’ve done and counting the benefit: Measuring the increase in the number of people with accessibility needs accessing bbc.co.uk would be quantitative proof of website performance.
Jonathan was a pleasure to work with at the BBC. I enjoyed my time with him and he always delivered. Even under the enormous budgetary & experience challenges we faced together.
Jonathan was able to prove the value of what his team delivered to a series of management teams, some of whom did not initially understand the value of accessibility. He did this through:
- Maximising the audience for existing services:
- Increasing the BBC’s ROI from audio-description by making it accessible via iPlayer to many blind users who couldn’t find AD programmes easily on TV set-top-boxes
- Improving the corporation’s audience for their online video by introducing requirements to provide transcripts and captions, thus improving the Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) of pages which included video
- Minimising reputational and financial risk and the costs of customer complaints:
- Reducing the PR costs of dealing with accessibility complaints, by strategically diverting that spend into delivering improvements in the service
- Positive reputational value by sharing best practice publicly:
- Jonathan led work on the creation of the BS 8878 Standard by comparing BBC best practice in accessibility with what worked at other large organisations.
- Positive reputational value via winning awards:
- Securing two awards for his team’s ground-breaking accessibility work on BBC iPlayer, and two Bafta nominations for his commissions of innovative online learning materials for people with learning difficulties and children who use British Sign Language.
- Ensuring people know how they can benefit:
- Working with disabled peoples’ organisations to ensure that the people who would benefit from the value of the accessibility advances made at the BBC actually knew about them.
- Driving Innovation:
- As a further result of the awards, further investment for creating innovations in accessibility from BBC Senior Management was secured.
It was a great experience working alongside the talented people at the BBC to deliver such amazing results.