Accessible documents policy

Accessible documents at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

This policy explains how accessible the documents BEIS 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

We publish documents in a range of formats, including PDF, MS Word and Excel and OpenDocument format.

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
  • 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 older documents (published before 23 September 2018) are not accessible. For example, some of them:

  • are just photocopies and are not marked up in a way that allows screen reader users to understand them
  • are not tagged up properly - for example, they do not contain proper headings
  • are not written in plain English

This mostly applies to our research and statistics documents. These types of documents are exempt from the regulations, so we do not currently have any plans to make them accessible.

But if you need to access information in one of these document types, 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:

Email: enquiries@beis.gov.uk

Alternative format requests
Digital Communities and Channels Team
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
1 Victoria Street
London
SW1H 0ET
United Kingdom

We’ll consider the request and get back to you within 15 working days.

Reporting accessibility problems with one of our documents

We’re always looking to improve the accessibility of our documents. If you find any problems not listed on this page or you think we’re not meeting accessibility requirements, email: enquiries@beis.gov.uk.

Enforcement procedure

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

Technical information about the accessibility of our documents

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

The documents we publish are partially compliant with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines version 2.1 AA standard, due to the non-compliances listed below.

Non accessible content

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

Non compliance with the accessibility regulations

Some of our PDF and MS Word documents include images without a text alternative. This means that 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).

We plan to add text alternatives for all relevant images. When we publish new documents we’ll make sure our use of images meets accessibility standards.

Some of our PDFs contain complex tables with merged cells. This makes it difficult for people using a screen reader to determine the correct reading order. This does not meet WCAG 2.1 success criterion 1.3.1 (info and relationships).

Where possible we will try to simplify the tables or make sure they are tagged properly for screen readers.

Some of our MS Excel spreadsheets may not be clearly structured with labelled tables, and labelled headings. Columns headings may be blank. Workbooks tabs may not have a clear title. This does not meet success criterion 1.3.1 (info and relationships).

We will make sure all new spreadsheets have an appropriate structure.

A few of the documents we publish are produced by third parties. We’re not always able to make these fully compliant, for example by adding the appropriate heading structure or alternative text for images. This does not meet success criterion 2.4.10 (section headings). or success criterion 1.1.1 (non-text content).

We have informed third parties of our accessibility requirements but sometimes we have to publish documents at short notice that are not accessible. Where possible, we try to fix these as soon as we can.

Disproportionate burden

There are thousands of historic PDF documents on our website. We have reviewed and prioritised our documents. We aim to fix those that are most used and are essential to providing our services.

The vast majority of the documents are of historic interest only and we do not intend to make them accessible. If you want a particular document in an accessible format email enquiries@beis.gov.uk, and we will see if we can help.

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

Many of our older PDFs and Word documents don’t 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 2.4.10 (section headings).

Some of our PDFs and Word documents are essential to providing our services. For example, we have PDFs with information on how users can comply with the law, and forms published as Word documents. By September 2020, we plan to either fix these or replace them with accessible HTML pages.

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. For example, we do not plan to fix our research and statistics documents.

Any new PDFs or Word documents we publish will meet accessibility standards.

How we tested our documents

We last tested a sample of our documents on 2 January 2020. The test was carried out by staff in the department.

We tested:

  • PDFs
  • MS Word documents
  • MS Excel documents

We tested these documents based on how often people look at them and whether they are essential to providing our services.

What we’re doing to improve accessibility

We have produced templates and guidance to make sure that all new documents that we produce are accessible. We are working with our research and statistics teams to help them create accessible documents.

We have changed the terms and conditions on which designers do business with us to specify that they must supply accessible documents.

We are reviewing and editing older documents to add features to make them more accessible to people using screen readers.

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