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Léonie Watson, helps us to understand the new accessibility law for public sector websites and apps

A new European Union (EU) Directive was adopted into UK law on 23rd September. EU Directive 2016/2102 introduces several deadlines concerning the accessibility of websites and mobile apps of public sector bodies.

For the UK, the Directive applies to local, regional, and national government bodies, as well as all other organisations operating within the public sector. As the Directive has been adopted into UK law, it will continue to be relevant to the UK public sector even after Britain has left the EU.

The Directive requires that websites and mobile apps from public sector bodies, conform to Chapter 9 of EN 301 549EN 301 549 was updated earlier this month to reference the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1 (WCAG2.1), making the EU Directive the first legislation to reference the latest version of WCAG. The standard for conformance is WCAG2.1 Level AA.

The Directive sets out a series of deadlines for meeting the expected level of accessibility conformance:

  • New public sector websites must conform to EN 301 549 by 23rd September 2019.
  • All public sector websites must conform to WCAG2.1 by 23rd September 2020.
  • All public sector mobile apps must conform to EN 301 549 by 23rd June 2021.

Public sector organisations planning or working on new websites should make sure that conformance with EN 301 549 is a mandatory requirement. If a new website is close to release, it may be necessary to review the website whilst it is still in production, and put in place plans for making it conform to EN 301 549 before the deadline.

Existing websites will need to be assessed to understand their current conformance level. If found not to meet EN 301 549, plans will need to be put in place for remediating the website before the 2020 deadline.

The same thing applies to mobile apps, with the possible exception that in three years most apps will undergo a complete redesign and/or rebuild. In that case making EN 301 549 conformance part of the requirements will be essential, and if not, the same assessment and remediation process will be needed as it is for existing websites.