Getting to grips with the new accessibility regulations
We take you through the new Public Sector website and mobile application accessibility regulations to find out what your organisation needs to be doing.
In September 2018 new accessibility regulations came into force, requiring UK Public Sector websites and mobile applications to meet specific accessibility standards. These regulations are set to improve individuals' usability of digital and online Public Sector services, ensuring that these services cater to a range of backgrounds and circumstances which could inhibit the individual's correct use of the service.
To help guide you through these new accessibility regulations, and to help get your organisation's website(s) 'accessibility-ready', we are starting the first in a series of blogs exploring the issues of website accessibility and how best to achieve it. In this first blog we look at these regulations in more detail, the key dates, and what your organisation needs to be doing to meet them.
As Public Sector organisations push more and more public services through digital and online channels, the need for equally accessible online usability is becoming ever more apparent. With Public Sector organisations under pressure to rapidly deliver public services online, it is understandable how website accessibility can be often overlooked. Clunky front-end and inaccessible interfaces are regularly bolted onto creaking back-end systems in the haste to get services delivered to the public. In turn this approach to service delivery can lead to poor user adoption, but more importantly often leads to those users with accessibility requirements feeling abandoned, resorting to offline channels to get a resolution. Moreover, often is the case that these users require digital or online public services the most but are frequently the people who find them hardest to use. The need for equal accessibility of digital or online public services has never been greater.
Who is Affected?
With these new accessibility regulations now in place, there are stipulations regarding what organisations types need to adhere to them. Essentially any website and/or mobile application of UK Public Sector bodies have to comply by these new standards. This includes central, regional and local authorities, bodies governed by public law, and associations formed by these authorities and/or bodies. In addition, some organisations are exempt to these new regulations which includes public service broadcasters fulfilling a public service broadcasting remit, non-governmental organisations, and schools/nurseries.
Whilst these new regulations which were set out on September 22nd, 2018 state what Public Sector organisations need to be doing to ensure their websites and apps conform, they do not apply right away. Instead a three-stage process will be implemented to ensure organisations are given enough time to prepare. The three key dates for the new accessibility regulations are:
When the regulations will apply
New Public Sector websites (published after 22nd September, 2018)
September 22nd, 2019
All other Public Sector websites
September 22nd, 2020
Public Sector mobile applications
June 22nd, 2021
What You Need to Do
In preparation for the three key dates specified, your organisation will need to ensure it has met the two main requirements to certify it is complaint with the new regulations. These two requirements are:
- Meet Accessibility Standards
Public Sector organisations will need ensure that their websites and mobile applications are 'perceivable, operable, understandable and robust' for all users. What is meant by these terms are the following:
- Perceivable - Information and user interface components must be presented to users in ways they can perceive. This means that users must be able to perceive the information being presented, it can't be invisible to all their senses.
- Operable - User interface components and navigation must be operable. This means that users must be able to operate the interface, the interface cannot require interaction that a user cannot perform.
- Understandable - Information and the operation of user interface must be understandable. This means that users must be able to understand the information as well as the operation of the user interface, the content or operation cannot be beyond their understanding.
- Robust - Content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies. This means that users must be able to access the content as technologies advance, as technologies and user agents evolve, the content should remain accessible.
- Publish an Accessibility Statement
Whilst this blog has tackled some of the intricacies of the forthcoming accessibility regulations, there is still more insight and advice we are excited to share with you on this topic. In the coming weeks we will be exploring website accessibility further with blogs delving into the dos and donts of designing and building websites for accessible use, insight which will help ensure your websites are accessible to all by September 2020.