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Public sector website accessibility regulations come into force

25/09/19

Mark Say Managing Editor

New accessibility regulations have come into force for public sector websites.

70 Whitehall sign

It initially applies to all new sites – those launched on or after 23 September 2018 – and will apply older ones from the same date of next year.

The compliance date for mobile applications has been set for 23 June 2021.

The regulations also include the mandatory publication of accessibility statements, explaining how accessible their websites, and the Government Digital Service will begin to monitor compliance from next year and has issued guidance on how it can be achieved.

Its advice is broken down into four sections: understanding how the regulations will impact your organisation; deciding on how to check a website or app for accessibility problems; making a plan to fix any problems; and publishing an accessibility statement.

Lack of choice

It makes the point that people may not have a choice when using a public sector website or app, so it is important they work for everyone. Those who need them the most are often the those who find them hardest to use.

The Cabinet Office said that around a third of disabled people in the UK experience difficulties in accessing public, commercial and leisure goods and services. The aim of the legislation is to help make sure online public services are accessible to all users, including people with disabilities.

The standards are based on WCAG 2.1 AA (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) accessibility standards.

Positive step

Minister for Implementation, Simon Hart said: “Today is another positive step in our longstanding commitment to ensuring digital services are accessible for all users and to encourage improved equality of access to public information and services.

“Although directly impacting the public sector, the regulations provide a necessary reminder for all organisations to consider the needs of all users when building online services.”

The move builds on the existing legal obligations of all UK service providers to make reasonable adjustments under the Equality Act 2010 and Northern Ireland’s Disability Discrimination Act 1995.

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