New Public Sector Accessibility Regulations

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A blog post by Barry Hill

Over the next two years from September this year, new regulations mean that every public sector website and app will have to meet certain accessibility standards and to publish a statement saying so.

The aim of the snappily named ‘The Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No.2) Accessibility Regulations 2018’ is to make certain that public sector websites and mobile apps are accessible to all users, especially those with disabilities.

The regulations have 2 main requirements:

  • To meet international accessibility standards,  such as the WCAG 2.1 AA or its European equivalent, EN301 549;
  • To publish an accessibility statement  and update it annually. This has to make clear the level of accessibility across the site or app. Where there are barriers, the statement has to inform users of alternative routes to access the content. The statement will also give contact details for the website owner for them to identify issues.

Deadlines to comply with the new regulations:

  • 23 September 2019 – Websites published after 22 September 2018
  • 22 September 2020 – All other public sector websites
  • 22 June 2021 – Public sector mobile applications

The requirements will apply to all public sector bodies, although some organisations might not have to fully meet the requirements if doing so would be a ‘disproportionate burden’. If a public body organisation does not have enough resources, they may only have to take some steps towards meeting the requirements now but aim to make further improvements later on.  You’ll still need to work out what it is reasonable for you to fix now, and what you’ll be able to fix in the future.

If you want to declare that making your website or app accessible is a ‘disproportionate burden’, you must carry out an assessment.  In your assessment , you could argue that the service is not useful to disabled people and would eat up a massive part of your annual budget.  you shouldn’t argue that lack of priority, time or knowledge for making things accessible is a disproportionate burden. Whatever you do, you need to State what your plans are in your accessibility statement to make things as clear as possible for people using your website or app.

The following organisations are also exempt from the 2018 regulations:

  • on-government organisations like charities – unless they are mostly financed by public funding, provide services that are essential to the public or are aimed at people with a disability;
  • Schools or nurseries – except for the content people need in order to use their services, such as a form that lets you outline school meal preferences;
  • Public sector broadcasters and their subsidiaries

Don’t panic.  Support for public sector organisations to meet the requirements and help them make digital media more accessible can be found on The Government Digital Service (GDS) website at https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/government-digital-service

Accessibility Leeds

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