New regulations have come into force which means from next year, every public sector website and app will need to meet certain accessibility standards.
The Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No.2) Accessibility Regulations 2018, to give its full title, came into force on 23 September. It aims to ensure public sector websites and mobile apps are accessible to all users, especially those with disabilities.
Now we want to focus on one particular thing the regulations require - publishing a website accessibility statement.
The regulations and the statement
All new public sector websites will need to meet accessibility standards and publish an accessibility statement.
This will make clear the level of accessibility across the site or app. Where there are barriers, the statement will inform users of alternative routes to access. The statement will also enable users to contact the website owner if they identify issues.
Any websites published since September this year will need a statement by September 2019, while older websites have until 2020 to comply.
Writing the statement
Many public sector bodies already publish accessibility information on their website. The new regulations mean this information will have to be presented in a consistent way and based on a model statement.
The accessibility statement should:
- list any inaccessible parts of the website or app
- show how people with access needs can get alternatives to content that’s not accessible
- provide details on who to contact to report accessibility issues
- provide information on the enforcement procedure if people are not happy with the response
- be published in a fully accessible form
- follow a consistent format
The statement will also need to be updated annually.
How GDS is helping
GDS is currently working on the model statement that website owners must use.
We have been user-testing the format with people with access needs so we can make sure the statements are clearly understood and meet user needs.
We are currently finalising the template and will publish it on GOV.UK in the new year.
What you need to do right now
In order to have the information required to complete an accessibility statement it is important that public sector bodies review and test their websites for user accessibility now.
You should include users with access needs and those using assistive technologies in this activity and schedule this on a regular basis.
When fixing issues with your online services and published content make sure they meet the key acceptance criteria of the European or international standards (respectively, EN 301 549 and WCAG 2.1 AA).
This will ensure you are prepared to meet the new regulations and will have all the information needed for your statement.