Greater Western Water’s Digital Accessibility Journey | TTC Global

Greater Western Water’s Digital Accessibility Journey

Learning more about GWW's progress with their digital accessibility journey

Sam Dancey
  • Sam Dancey
  • 9 February 2023


At TTC, we believe the digital world will become more accessible and usable. We remain committed to bringing that vision to fruition by guiding organisations on their digital accessibility journeys.

TTC is delighted to work closely with Greater Western Water as their digital accessibility partner to support them on their digital accessibility journey. TTC interviewed Jai Luke Hastrich, UI Designer at GWW, about the organisation's progress with digital accessibility to learn more about why they embarked on this journey and how they made it happen.

Why is access and inclusion (more broadly) important to GWW?

Access to water is a basic human right and Greater Western Water (GWW) provides water services to everyone who lives in and visits our service area. That means that no one should experience barriers when it comes to accessing information, or our products and services. Everyone deserves an easy and consistent experience when interacting with GWW regardless of their level of ability.

Why is digital accessibility important to GWW?

So much of our daily lives is spent interacting with and undertaking tasks in some digital capacity. The majority of people now have a minicomputer right in their pockets and a lot of the ways people interact with us (forms, customer portals, social media, etc.) are all online. If a user is using assistive technology to navigate their digital device, then our digital assets need to be designed and developed to function correctly with assistive technologies, to allow users the same experience as those who don’t use assistive tech. There are also state and federal anti-discrimination laws as well as international digital standards that need to be adhered to when it comes to ensuring equality for accessing information and services.

Could you share the initial steps GWW has taken on their access and inclusion journey?

We knew that there was certain work that needed to be carried out to start meeting accessibility requirements. That included starting to align our digital assets with WCAG standards and make sure our people have access to reasonable adjustments and accessible working conditions. It became clear that we needed an organisational policy to lay a strong foundation. We drafted a policy and after a 12-month process of reviews and approvals, as well as determination and support from leadership, we made it over the line.

Our Accessibility Policy is twofold, supporting digital accessibility (WCAG compliance) as well as accessibility for our people. With an official policy we were then able to start putting things like digital accessibility audits and basic staff training around accessibility in place, as well as simple tasks such as making accessible Word and PowerPoint documents.

Could you share what you initially prioritised in relation to digital accessibility and why? How did you get buy in and engagement?

GWW is a relatively new water corporation, formed by the integration of City West Water and Western Water. When we built the new GWW website, it was an obvious choice to prioritise making it as accessible as possible and that became our first major focus. As we work to integrate the rest of our internal systems, such as our Billings and Collections system, we will need to keep accessibility as a major focus. We also want to prioritise accessible onboarding for new staff members, and to create an Accessibility Action plan so we can start looking at where we want to be and how we’re going to get there.

How has your partnership with TTC supported you on GWW’s digital accessibility journey?

Digital accessibility auditing and adhering to WCAG standards is new to GWW. We had never undertaken an audit before, so we knew that it was too big a task to tackle ourselves. The day that TTC showcased the audit results of our new website to my team I was so overcome with pride and excitement. The level of skill and knowledge of the TTC team is invaluable and so far, working with TTC has been a joy and an eye-opener into the level of detail needed to meet compliance. I’m looking forward to continuing working with TTC to help strengthen our accessibility, because at the end of the day the user is the one who ultimately benefits from this work.

Through that partnership, what has your key learning been so far?

Accessibility compliance is a specialised skill. There are so many technical things to know how to find and solve. So, a partnership with TTC is necessary to help get us started. It’s important to realise that we don’t have to know everything, that there are people and other organisations out there to lean on to help fill the gaps. Working with TTC was the right decision, so it’s nice to see that partnership becoming fruitful for us very early on.

Can you share your successes and any challenges along the way?

The day that TTC shared the audit results was a huge win for our accessibility journey. It was the culmination of a year-long journey. Our greatest challenge so far has been building internal knowledge and capacity around accessibility compliance – the how and what to do. It’s going to be an ongoing journey of trial and error, learning and development, and organisation-wide behavioural change.

What’s next, what’s the phased approach for GWW?

Now that we have audited our new website with the assistance of TTC, it’s about working through the identified issues as soon as possible to help remove any barriers for our users. As we update other internal and external digital systems, we will need to ensure they are accessible and will hopefully continue working with TTC to provide ongoing support. At this stage our approach is one step at a time, and hopefully we can look back after a few years and be proud of how far we have come to ensure our products and services are accessible for everyone.

Any top tips for readers who are thinking of embarking on their digital accessibility journey?

It’s going to take time to shift people’s perspective and behaviour. Accessibility for an organisation is essentially a behavioural change piece. People need to understand why accessibility is important and how they can contribute from their own corner of the room. So, take the time to lay the foundations. Once you have strong foundations you can build on that and start growing capacity, knowledge and skills for individuals and teams. At GWW we’re fortunate that our MD, Maree Lang, is an advocate for inclusivity and accessibility. Her support and drive to carry that torch at the helm has been vital to GWW understanding and embracing the need for accessibility. Once you have executive-level buy-in for any policy or behavioural change, things naturally start falling into place.

Anything else you would like to add that hasn’t been covered?

Accessibility is a journey. You may not know everything right away, you may not be doing everything you need to do right away, you just need to make a start. Start reading about accessibility, start understanding and talking about the why, what, and how of accessibility. Participate in online courses/training, read articles, attend industry accessibility events. Once GWW started to understand why accessibility was important, more and more of our people started to ask questions and fold accessibility into their everyday work practices. It’s also important to remember that there is no definitive end goal for accessibility. There’s no point in time where you say, “Accessibility, we’ve done that now, ticked that box, let’s move on”. There is always work to do - continuous improvement, more and better techniques to learn and implement. Hence, it’s a journey. A necessary and important journey… #nobarriers.

Want to learn more?

TTC supports organisations to embed digital accessibility practices into the way that they work, and also manages accessibility on your behalf. Reach out to Samantha Dancey at TTC Global on if you have any questions about this blog, or if you would like to discuss your team’s digital accessibility journey!