“How I helped the Home office build more inclusive systems”13/01/2020
By Spartan Charlotte Richards
I studied Information Technology at London Southbank University and I came across Sparta Global towards the end of my degree course. When I heard about Sparta, I had been working in retail for five years. Although I had a passion for tech and a sincere interest in developing my technical skills, I had no work experience within the tech industry. After a phone conversation with the Talent team at Sparta, I went to one of their assessment days not really knowing what to expect. It only took a day at the Sparta headquarters and I immediately knew that I wanted to pursue the opportunity to work with them.
I started my training at Sparta Global in June and commenced my placement at the Home Office in August. I am now a QAT Analyst working within the Home Office System Integration Test team. My current role is both dynamic and exciting, helping to ensure the Home Office systems work end-to-end with functional regression testing.
Testing for equality in tech
Working in testing has also offered me an opportunity to apply my passion for equality in tech. Through testing, technical teams can make sure they build products that are inclusive and accessible to all. One of the ways in which this can be achieved is through accessibility tools. For example, accessibility tools can transform the way disabled users access information that is important to them. By extension, these tools also play an important role in making sure companies design digital products that reflect the needs of its diverse community of users.
I developed an interest in testing accessibility during my training at Sparta Global, where we were introduced to assistive accessibility tools and given a chance to practice both manual and automated testing on different websites. Shortly after being placed on client site, I came across this topic again when the Head of QAT Delivery at the Home Office mentioned they were looking into accessibility criteria as part of a testing project. I immediately seized the opportunity to help. This was a great chance to extend my knowledge of accessibility tools and to help our clients develop systems that met the necessary guidelines.
Making my mark
I was interested in developing a tool-kit that could be used for both current and future projects at the Home Office, so I created my own test scripts and made a template that could be accessed by all colleagues on site. After executing the tests, I was able to write up a high-level report of my findings and handed it over to my manager to review. I also attended an “Access Needs Event”, an informative and interactive all-day workshop on accessibility in testing. During this workshop, I discovered most companies are still unaware of accessibility and inclusion tools. This proves that there is a gap in the discussion on D&I in testing and that everyone can benefit from learning more about this important topic.
On the back of this project, the Home Office offered me an opportunity to become an Ambassador for accessibility and inclusion. Some of my responsibilities in this role include raising awareness about inclusion issues in testing, being a reliable point of contact for queries and helping colleagues at the Home Office to implement the accessibility scripts I have created. Working with the Home Office has been an incredible experience and I am enjoying every day on site!
Being a D&I ally
By becoming an ambassador for accessibility at the Home Office, I have experienced the power of testing to design inclusive digital products that make a real difference for so many people. I would encourage anyone to research more about accessibility as a medium to implement inclusivity in technology and I hope that more people will pursue a career in this area in the future.
For me, it is incredibly important to work for companies like Sparta Global and the Home Office, where diversity and inclusion are taken very seriously and where I can help design more inclusive tech products through the implementation of accessibility tools. My goal is to be recognised as an ally at both. By striving for impact on client site, I hope to raise awareness of diversity issues in tech and to make sure we are not “disabling” users by testing systems that are not fit for a diverse range of individuals.