Accessibility Case Study

NHS Resolution: PDF files to HTML pages

Introduction

Picture of new template layout from NHS Resolution website
New WordPress template for WP Blocks for PDF to HTML conversion

NHS Resolution is an arm’s length body of the Department of Health and Social Care. They provide expertise to the NHS on resolving concerns and disputes fairly, sharing learning for improvement and preserving resources for patient care. This means they must disseminate a lot of data driven, evidence-based information to other areas of the NHS.

Historically NHS Resolution have published this information in PDF format, to get support for formatting graphics, charts, graphs, and tables.

The accessibility guidelines

  1. Accessibility guidelines from GOV.UK and NHS Digital require that the website is compliant with WCAG2.2 AA standard.
  2. NHS Digital has guidelines for use the use of PDF format documents on a website (see: https://digital.nhs.uk/about-nhs-digital/standards-for-web-products/accessibility-for-digital-services#use-of-pdfs-and-office-documents) Essentially, “PDFs and other office documents do not meet the same level of accessibility as well-designed web content. Public sector bodies, including the NHS, should not use PDFs or office documents to communicate information, except in a few very limited circumstances, as doing so is unlawful.”
  3. There are some exceptions for PDFs (see: https://digital.nhs.uk/about-nhs-digital/standards-for-web-products/accessibility-for-digital-services#exceptions) namely “PDFs or other documents published before 23 September 2018 – unless users need them to use a service, for example a form that lets you request school meal preferences” but theses do not apply to NHS Resolution because they are publishing new content.
  4. In some cases an Accessible PDF in PDF/UA format is acceptable but these cases are limited to legal documents, and documents that are designed to be printed out (e.g. a poster).

To be compliant with WCAG2.2 regulation the PDF content needed to be converted to HTML web page format instead.

Image from a page on NHS Resolution website showing flexible layout where PDF content has been converted to HTML
NHS Resolution flexible layouts for PDF to HTML pages conversion

The accessibility challenge

To create tools where site editors can create accessible content in graphic formats, including tables, charts, and graphs within their WordPress website.

The solution

We created a new custom post type for this type of content. The post type utilises WP Blocks to allow site editors to build flexible layouts. Graphically, the brand guidelines allow more freedom of design in this part of the website, so we created the tools that allow editors to make accessible design choices.

We created some custom blocks, for popular layout features such as call out text, quotes, icon/graphic with text display. We installed a premium plugin to create the tables and charts but extended it to always display the chart data in a table format for screen readers (or any other user that prefer to see data in a table format.) This helps site editors keep the charts accessible by default. We added only the blocks that site editors would need, to streamline their experience of creating accessible content with WP Blocks. Every block was built with accessibility in mind.

Picture of a pie chart from NHS Resolution website
Accessible charts and tables to handle display of data with WP Blocks

We provided:

Consultancy – for the creation of an easy to use, accessible solution

Design – we looked at a selection of PDF leaflets that were to be converted from PDF to HTML and created a new page template design and a flexible design system of drag-and-drop components for this type of content

Development – we built custom blocks for use with this custom template, as well as utilising a selection of default WP Blocks

Training – we provided training on how best to display the images, graphs and tables and layout to ensure all assets are accessible. Plus training on using WP Blocks and creating accessible charts and graphs.

Useful references

If you have a lot of PDF content on your website that is not accessible and needs converting to HTML pages or are interested in creating accessible user experiences with complex data the below links might help you.

Alternatively, you can always contact us to discuss how we can help you with converting PDF pages to HTML pages in accessible ways.

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