Accessibility statements for public sector organisations

EU Directive 2016/2102 has been enacted into UK law, as the Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) Accessibility Regulations 2018.

The regulations set out a timetable for public sector organisations to make sure their websites and apps conform to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 Level AA:

  • Websites published on (or after) 23rd September 2018, must conform by 23rd September 2019;
  • Websites published before 23rd September 2018, must conform by 23rd September 2020;
  • Mobile apps must conform by 23rd June 2021.

Publishing accessibility statements

Each website and mobile app must have an accessibility statement. The statement must be available in accessible format, in the following ways:

  • For websites, the statement must be published on the website of the public sector body;
  • For mobile apps, the statement must be published on the website of the public sector body, or made available at the point the app is downloaded.

The accessibility statement must include the following information:A description of any parts of the website or mobile app that do not conform to WCAG2.1 Level AA, and an explanation as to why;

A description of any accessible alternatives that have been provided;

  • A description of any parts of the website or mobile app that do not conform to WCAG2.1 Level AA, and an explanation as to why;
  • A description of any accessible alternatives that have been provided;
  • A link to an accessible contact form, so that someone can:
    • Notify the public sector organisation about any failure to conform to the accessibility standard;
    • Request information excluded under Regulation 3(2) and Regulation 6.
  • A link to the enforcement procedure described in Part 5 of the regulations, in case the public sector organisation does not respond appropriately when notified of a failure to conform to the accessibility standard.

Keeping accessibility statements up-to-date

The accessibility statement must be kept up-to-date, which means public sector organisations will need to monitor the accessibility of websites and mobile apps.

This can be done through a third party, but with increasingly limited budgets available to public sector organisations, this may not be sustainable. A better alternative may be to invest in making the teams responsible for public sector websites and mobile apps self-sustaining in accessibility terms.

Assess the level of accessibility knowledge and experience in each team, identify where the gaps lie, then start plugging the gaps. It’s likely there will be an initial investment in training, but if there are people within the organisation that have demonstrable accessibility experience, give them time and support to act as accessibility champions whilst the rest of the team acquire the skills they need.

Put in place processes that make it clear how each person within a team is responsible for accessibility, how they should factor accessibility into their definition of “done” or “finished”, and give them the tools and resources they need to make that happen.

It will take time and budget to do this, but done right it will be an initial investment that enables the organisation to create websites and mobile apps that are accessible by design, and to avoid building backlogs of accessibility issues. It will also remove, or at least seriously reduce, the ongoing cost of working with a third party.

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