We recognise that each of the major categories of disabilities (visual, hearing, motor, and cognitive) require certain types of modifications when designing web content. To meet government accessibility requirements, digital services must: meet Level AA of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG2.1) as a minimum and work on the most commonly used assistive technologies - including screen magnifiers, screen readers and speech recognition tools. Web accessibility is about providing online access for all regardless of disabilities and constraints. Constraints could include limited expertise, browser type etc.
Does the law require me to make my site accessible?
Yes. If someone with a disability, such as sight loss, can't access the information on your website then it could be seen as discrimination. The Equality Act came into force in October 2010, replacing the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) in England, Scotland and Wales. Like the DDA, the Equality Act was introduced with the intention of comprehensively tackling the discrimination which many disabled people face. The Act is 'anticipatory', which means you cannot wait until a disabled person wants to use your services. You must think in advance (and on an ongoing basis) about what disabled people with a range of impairments (sight loss, hearing loss, mobility and cognitive impairments) might reasonably need.
The Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) Accessibility Regulations 2018 came into force on 23 September 2018 which say that all public sector websites or mobile apps must:
- meet accessibility standards
- publish an accessibility statement
The accessibility regulations build on your existing obligations to people who have a disability under the Equality Act 2010 (or the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 in Northern Ireland). These say that all UK service providers must consider ‘reasonable adjustments’ for disabled people.
The best way to do this is:
- Check your website or mobile app for accessibility problems.
- Make a plan to fix any accessibility problems you find, within reason.
- Publish your accessibility statement.
- Make sure new features are accessible.
If you created a new public sector website on or after 23 September 2018, you must now meet accessibility standards and publish an accessibility statement. You need to review and update your statement regularly. A website would be considered new if you make substantial changes to the code, create new features, or create a subdomain with its own distinct code base. Mobile apps need to be accessible by 23 June 2021.
It may be unlawful for a website to:
- Have links on that are not accessible to a screen reader
- Use application forms in a PDF format that cannot be read by a screen reader
- Display core service information that is not in a format accessible to screen readers.
- Use text, colour contrasting and formatting that make the website inaccessible to a partially sighted service user