Managing Grant Applications with Accessible Software
How Aciron does it
To start, the partnership anticipated receiving an increased number of applications each year. Unfortunately, the program’s application process was limited. Applicants were only allowed to apply by sending numerous attachments via email or by mailing documents, which was then scanned. There was no central database or repository for information to be organized and reviewed. The office staff was forced to manually review applications. This process was not sustainable due to the program’s growth and limited staff capacity.
The partnership was looking to overcome these challenges. As a result, the partnership wanted to develop a grant application database for the intake and processing of applications. The database had to be accessible so that all users could apply for the government grants. Additionally, it had to scalable, so that functionality could be expanded in future phases. The organization reached out to Aciron for assistance with designing, developing, and launching the web database in time for the 2017 grant application cycle.
Aciron helped define the requirements for Phase I of the application, which included the core functionality of the application. When defining the requirements we kept in mind the client’s accelerated timeline.
Aciron developed storyboards to articulate the look and feel of the user interface. Also, we developed process flow diagrams to document how users interact with the system. Aciron worked closely with the client to get a thorough understanding of their current paper-based process. Thus, ensuring that the new automated workflow would meet the client’s business needs.
Meanwhile, Aciron thoroughly tested the application through a 3-test cycle. This included system, integration, and user testing. Both the Aciron team and the client team participated in this testing process. Thus, ensuring that the platform was defect-free, easy to use, and met users’ specific needs.
Most importantly, Aciron tested the application based on government standards. Because the grant intake application is part of a government program, Aciron conducted accessibility testing. In other words, this certified that the system complied with Section 508 Law standards. As a result, Aciron’s consultants worked with accessibility specialists to perform Section 508 compliance testing on the application. This testing ensured that the application incorporated best practices like alt text, consistent headers, and tool-tips. These features enable users to navigate the application using assistive technology like screen readers, while also improving the general user experience for all users.
In conclusion, Aciron developed an accessible, web application with a SQL Server back-end database. The grant intake database provides a central repository for information to be organized and sorted for review.
Applicants are able to register, securely log in, and complete a grant application form to apply for government funding. Users are able to upload required documents via a user-friendly interface. Also, through an input validation functionality, users can only submit completed applications.
When an application comes in, however, administrators determine applicants eligibility via a checklist. But, to continue the review process, administrators assign reviewers to applications and manage their access permissions. Grant reviewers view the submitted applications for their region and print them as needed.
In short, the grant intake system has increased transparency, streamlined processes, and automated workflows. Similarly, it increased efficiency within the organization. Therefore, the partnership is extremely happy with the new system. For example, Aciron continues to work with the partnership to provide support and maintenance. After that, we add new functionality to the system.