Accessible documents policy

This accessible documents policy applies to information on gov.uk that is published by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl).


This policy explains how accessible the documents Dstl publishes on GOV.UK are. It covers PDFs, spreadsheets, presentations and other types of document. It does not cover content published on GOV.UK as HTML: the main GOV.UK accessibility statement will cover that.

Using our documents

Dstl publishes documents in a range of formats, including PDF, editable text documents, HTML pages and spreadsheets.

We want as many people as possible to be able to use those documents. For example, when we produce a document we make sure to:

  • provide an HTML option where possible
  • use open document formats (such as .odt) instead of propriety formats and PDFs where possible
  • tag headings and other parts of the document properly, so screen readers can understand the page structure
  • make sure we include alt text alongside non-decorative images, so people who cannot see them understand what they’re there for
  • avoid using tables, except when we’re presenting data
  • write in plain English

How accessible our documents are

New documents we publish and documents you need to download or fill in to access one of the services we provide should be fully accessible.

However, we know that some of our documents are not accessible. For example, some of them:

  • are not tagged up properly - for example, they do not contain proper headings
  • are not written in plain English
  • do not have alternative text alongside non-decorative images

This mainly applies to historic annual reports and research publications. We are reviewing these documents and making older documents accessible wherever possible.

But if you need to access information in one of these documents you can contact us and ask for an alternative format.

What to do if you cannot use one of our documents

If you need a document we’ve published in a different format:

Please tell us:

  • the web address (URL) of the content
  • your name and address
  • the format your require, for example audio CD, braille or accessible PDF

We’ll consider the request and get back to you within 5 working days of receipt.

Read tips on contacting organisations about inaccessible websites from AbilityNet.

Enforcement procedure

If you contact us with a complaint and you’re not happy with how we respond, contact the Equality Advisory and Support Service (EASS).

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) is responsible for enforcing the Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No. 2) Accessibility Regulations 2018 (the ‘accessibility regulations’).

Technical information about the accessibility of our documents

Dstl is committed to making our documents accessible, in accordance with the Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No. 2) Accessibility Regulations 2018.

The documents Dstl publishes are not compliant with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines version 2.1 AA standard. The non-accessible sections are listed below.

Non accessible content

The content listed below is non-accessible for the following reasons.

Non compliance with the accessibility regulations

A few of our documents have diagrams. These images do not have a text alternative, so the information in them is not available to people using a screen reader. This does not meet WCAG 2.1 success criterion 1.1.1 (non-text content).

Some of our documents use tables, diagrams or other visual means to convey structure or relationships. These do not always have a text equivalent so are not available to people using a screen-reader. This does not meet WCAG 2.1 success criterion 1.3.1 (information and relationships).

Some of our documents do not have properly tagged headings or bookmarks, so it is hard for people using a screen reader to navigate the content in a meaningful sequence. This does not meet WCAG 2.1 success criterion 1.3.2 (meaningful sequence).

Some of our content, such as tables or images, relies solely on colour to convey information, so someone who cannot perceive colour differences would not be able to access this information. This does not meet WCAG 2.1 success criterion 1.4.1 (use of color).

Some of our diagrams and images do not have a sufficient contrast ratio, so they will be hard to read for some people. This does not meet WCAG success criterion 1.4.3 (contrast minimum). Some of our documents contain images of text, and the information is not conveyed elsewhere in text. This does not meet WCAG success criterion 1.4.5 (images of text).

Some of our documents are available solely in PDF format, which does not allow content to be re-sized without people needing to scroll in two dimensions. This does not meet WCAG success criterion 1.4.10 (reflow).

Some of our documents are not structured so that they have a clear tab order, so they cannot be navigated using keyboard alone. This does not meet WCAG success criterion 2.1.1 (keyboard).

Some of our links do not have meaningful text. This means users cannot identify the purpose of the link from the link text alone. This does not meet WCAG success criterion 2.4.9 (link purpose – link only).

Many of our older PDFs and Word documents do not meet accessibility standards - for example, they may not be structured so they’re accessible to a screen reader. This does not meet WCAG 2.1 success criterion 4.1.2 (name, role value).

We plan to ensure all content published after 23 September 2018 is accessible by April 2022.

When we publish new documents we’ll make sure they meet accessibility standards.

Disproportionate burden

We have identified a small number of Dstl documents that fall under the disproportionate burden category. We consider that it would be a disproportionate burden to update very lengthy PDFs, as well as those that are not regularly viewed and contain complex layouts such as multiple images or tables. Examples include historic annual reports, the Future Cities report and the archive of forensics newsletters. We plan to replace the latter during 2022, when a new core document is updated. A small number of forms continue to be published as Word documents rather than using an open document format because we have not been able to replicate the functionality.

Accessible versions will be provided if requested.

Content that’s not within the scope of the accessibility regulations

Many of our older PDFs and Word documents do not meet accessibility standards - for example, they may not be structured so they’re accessible to a screen reader. This does not meet WCAG 2.1 success criterion 4.1.2 (name, role value).

The accessibility regulations do not require us to fix PDFs or other documents published before 23 September 2018 if they’re not essential to providing our services.

Furthermore, the accessibility regulations do not apply to:

  • pre-recorded time-based media such as video and audio
  • third-party content that is neither funded nor developed by, nor under the control of Dstl
  • archived content

We do not plan to fix all this content. However, requests can be made to make specific content accessible for those who need it.

Any new pages or documents we publish will meet accessibility standards.

How we tested our documents

We last tested a sample of our documents on 24 December 2021. The test was carried out by Dstl staff, looking at recent documents and some of the most used content.

We tested against WCAG 2.1 AA. We also test certain important documents, such as our annual report and accounts, with assistive technologies such as screen readers.

What we’re doing to improve accessibility

We are reviewing our approach and working towards meeting the regulations by:

  • training our staff to create accessible documents
  • raising awareness among our staff of the importance of accessibility and the legal obligations
  • developing accessible document templates
  • publishing alternative formats for our users and where feasible making additional adjustments if these are not enough
  • creating a register of the top 500 most-used pages on our website regardless of publication date, and working through these ensuring pages and attachments are accessible
  • archiving or withdrawing content that is no longer current (ensuring accessible versions are still provided if published after 23 September 2018)

We will continue to work to make our site accessible.

This page was prepared on 19 November 2020. It was last updated on 6 January 2022.