Refuge – Launch – Range of new digital functions to increase accessibility

With 2 in 4 women with disabilities likely to experience domestic abuse, Refuge launches critical accessibility features on its National Domestic Abuse Helpline Website on Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD)

  • 1 in 4 women will experience domestic abuse at some point in their lifetime. Women with disabilities are more than twice as likely to experience domestic abuse compared to non-disabled women.
  • Women with additional sensory and mobility needs are subjected to abuse for much longer; data from across Refuge’s services shows that for women with disabilities abuse lasted on average for 9 years, compared to 6.8 years for all women.
  • New features include support from our expert Helpline Advisers via British Sign Language (BSL) interpretation, plus changes to our Helpline website to ensure screen reader compatibility and improved keyboard accessibility for women who need it
  • Website translated into three frequently needed languages.
  • WATCH – Video explaining the Helpline service in BSL

Refuge, the country’s largest single provider of specialist domestic services, and sole provider of the National Domestic Abuse Helpline (NDAH – telephone and website/live chat) has launched a range of new digital functions to increase accessibility for those needing life-saving and life-changing support.

With Refuge continuing to see around a 60% increase in calls and contacts logged on its Helpline services the charity has today launched an enhanced version of its NDAH website to ensure some of the most vulnerable women experiencing abuse can access support.

Refuge consulted with Deaf women and worked in partnership with SignHealth, the Deaf health charity, to launch a British Sign Language (BSL) service on www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk. This means users can click on the BSL symbol at the top of the website to receive free, confidential support from our expert Helpline Advisers via a qualified interpreter. SignVideo will provide the interpretation, which is available Monday – Friday, 10am – 6pm. 11 million people in the UK are deaf or hard of hearing and there are 151,000 BSL users in the UK. 20% of the UK population (14.1 million people) reported a disability in 2018/19.

Refuge was delighted to work in partnership with SignHealth in developing this service; their team  helped develop resources and delivered training for Refuge’s Helpline advisors, to help them understand the unique needs of callers who may come through to us on the BSL service.

To enhance accessibility yet more, Refuge has also launched a new language selector feature across its National Domestic Abuse Helpline website meaning women can now read vital content in Spanish, Bengali and Polish. We have also improved accessibility for blind and partially sighted women by ensuring compatibility with two different screen readers, NonVisual Desktop Access (NVDA) and Voiceover. Keyboard accessibility has been improved so that women who use a keyboard to navigate websites can more efficiently access the information they need on domestic abuse.

Refuge worked in partnership with digital inclusion experts at our web agency Wunderman Thompson, and accessibility experts Hassell Inclusion tested our changes to ensure quality. The improvements follow the launch of the Live Chat service which was implemented last year, enabling more women to access the Helpline team via digital channels.

Part of a longer press release at https://www.refuge.org.uk/refuge-launches-accessibility-features-ndah-website/