Wesc Foundation is a specialist centre for Visually Impaired young people in Exeter, Devon. They provide education, training and expertise to create a better life for people with visual impairment.
Wesc is a complex organisation situated on a large campus in Devon. Communication to and between staff is key to running the organisation well. Schedules, memos, policies, handbook – even (and perhaps most importantly) the lunch menu – need to communication quickly and efficiently.
Communication was mainly done through a weekly bulletin that gave key information to staff. This worked well, but took time to create and distribute, and didn’t allow for regular updates. Email was used for this.
Wesc was going through the process of migrating their email to Office 365. It seemed a logical step to look at SharePoint Online to see if it could be of use. Critical to the success of the project was ensuring that the accessibility of the system was excellent, as it would be used by people with a range of visual impairments and other disabilities.
We worked with the IT department and other staff members to put together a list of requirements for the intranet. These were prioritised and we produced a specification for an initial SharePoint Online Intranet. This would contain core features that would engage staff – Announcements, Staff Handbook, Organisation Charts, Phonebook, Quality, Vacancies and Menu. We also designed a structure for team sites, so that staff could begin to use SharePoint for storing and sharing documents.
Taking the lead from the excellent WESC website, we created a new stylesheet for SharePoint that incorporated a number of accessibility features. We added buttons to change the font size, and also to change the colour presentation of the site, adding the options for black on yellow, white on black, and blue on white. We then stripped out a lot of the design elements of SharePoint Online, giving a very clean design that lends itself to screen readers. The site is also responsive so that it can be used on various devices, particularly on iPads.
The outcome was a clean, highly functional Intranet that can now be used to quickly communicate with all staff. By setting the Intranet to everybody’s Home Page, staff can get to key information in a couple of clicks and communication is greatly improved.
As staff get used to using the Intranet, they are also getting used to SharePoint Online, and over time we will be introducing them to some of the great features of this, such as sharing documents and managing processes.