Public Sector Website Accessibility

14/11/2018 by Phil Shackleton

On 23rd September 2018, a new Government law came into force: The Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) Accessibility Regulations 2018. It is set to make all public sector websites and apps more accessible.

In general terms, the public sector consists of governments and all publicly controlled or publicly funded agencies, enterprises, for example, NHS, Police and educational bodies. These public sector organisations must publish an accessibility statement to show that they are meeting the standard requirements and the deadline for this is September 2020.

What you need to do

The new guidelines state that you must make your website or mobile app accessible by making it ‘perceivable, operable, understandable and robust’. You can do this by meeting the international WCAG 2.1 AA accessibility standards.

You must also:

  • publish an accessibility statement – this must include details of any content that doesn’t meet accessibility standards
  • if someone requests it, provide an accessible alternative within a reasonable time for any content that doesn’t meet the standards

Website accessibility audits

Mixd have been involved with web standards and web accessibility for well over 15 years and have extensive knowledge of the current UK and global standards. In particular, our team has extensive experience in W3C standard compliant design. Throughout the development process, we follow industry best practice and all our projects strive to meet or exceed Level 2 (Double AA standard) as set out by the W3C guidelines.

Our experience dates back to 2001 where we were involved with the implementation of e-Government Interoperability Framework (e-GIF) and WCAG 2.0 compliance for the Department for Work and Pensions. Since then, we have worked extensively within the public sector designing sites, apps and UI’s where accessibility has been fundamental to the outcomes.

We have been responsible for the successful passage of several sites through the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) ‘See It Right’ audit process. Where we have captured business requirements, defined information architectures and wireframed interactive solutions on a wide range of projects, from Government schemes through to campaigns for leading retailers and internationally-known brands.

Accessibility standards

Ensuring our client websites meet accessibility standards has always been at the forefront of what we do. However, due to the tightening of these guidelines we are recommending that all public sector clients take this opportunity to review existing websites as often content changes made post-launch are not meeting the new standard.

The new legal requirements build on existing obligations to disabled people under the Equality Act 2010 (or the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 in Northern Ireland). These say that all UK service providers must make ‘reasonable adjustments’ for disabled people.

As an example, a recent project for NHS Leeds Clinical Commissioning Group scores 100% in a Google Lighthouse audit for accessibility. This tool is incredibly useful for performing automated audits on both performance and accessibility. You can find further guidance on performing basic accessibility tests on the Web Accessibility website. Additionally, The GOV.UK Service Manual has sections on automated and manual testing and getting an accessibility audit.

Mixd offers a range of services relating to web accessibility, including training, consultancy, assistance for internal development projects and technology support.

Should you require our support in undertaking an Accessibility Audit on your existing website please do get in touch on 0113 4333152 or email [email protected].