Disability Hub MN (“the Hub”) is a free, statewide resource network for people with disabilities and the people who support them. For many individuals, navigating the programs and services available in Minnesota can be a challenge, and confusing at times. The Disability Hub MN website is an all-in-one site that helps people with disabilities solve problems, navigate the system, and plan for the future.
Our longtime partner LN Design Co. developed the overall design and user experience of the new site and introduced us to Disability Hub MN as a development partner. Together, our team began work on the large site redevelopment.
The Hub is intended to be a one stop shop for Minnesotans with disabilities who are looking for more information and resources on a variety of topics like housing, jobs, managing money, and more. The site serves as both a resource for people with high-level information around services in the state and is also a landing place for users to find links to the services they want more information around. Accessibility is a large focus of the site, as its main userbase of Minnesotans may use accommodations to navigate websites like screen readers, keyboard navigation, and text-to-speech extensions.
With all that in mind, an Umbraco Content Management System (CMS) was chosen for the site redesign, as the Hub team already had experience in using the content editor and it allowed for easy additions of the accessibility features that were important to the overall development of the new site. A variety of integrations were required on the new site to bridge the gap between the various data systems that the Hub uses to track website activity, have user interest information flow back to the Hub’s records, and to ensure that users can login to the site using credentials that are valid on other websites that partner with the Hub. The new site also incorporated web form integrations to make it easier for Hub users to communicate and make specific requests to the Hub, creating more efficiencies for the Hub staff as they respond to requests.
Disability Hub MN brought in a local third-party accessibility-focused firm to help with the development of accessibility features for the site. They are a Minneapolis-based digital accessibility consulting firm founded and staffed by digital accessibility experts who live with disabilities. They help organizations create and move existing websites, documents, and mobile applications towards WCAG Accessibility. Their real-world usability feedback provided an invaluable perspective on the website’s experience for the audience the site was meant to accommodate.
All too often usability testing is performed at the end of a project, limiting what you can do to accommodate the issues uncovered. Rather, the Hub team made sure that usability drove decisions made throughout the life of the project. This approach helped our team gain an authentic perspective regarding what it means for a site to be not only accessibility compliant, but useful to all. Armed with this insight, the team built every inch of the site to be a highly usable experience for all. Notable accessibility features include:
- Keyboard navigation of the site was made possible throughout.
- All text, headings, tags, images, menus, and forms on the site were optimized for screen-reading tools and text-to-speech extensions.
- A high-contrast color palette was used across the site.
Almost a year in the making, the launch of the new Disability Hub MN website was well-received by the team and the site’s users. The site launched without any major hiccups and has since been enjoyed by all visitors. Our team has gained a new perspective and understanding on site accessibility throughout this entire experience from the Hub team.