Accessible documents at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
This policy explains how accessible the documents Defra 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
Defra publishes documents in a range of formats, including:
- PDF forms
- Microsoft Excel
- Microsoft Word
- OpenDocument formats (for example .odt or .ods)
- CSV (Comma-Separated Values)
- XML (eXtensible Markup Language)
- XSD (XML Schema Definition)
We want as many people as possible to be able to use those documents. For example, when we produce a document we:
- provide an HTML or open document format option as far as possible
- make document titles and headings clear and meaningful
- create a heading structure that follows a logical order
- write in plain English - although some content contains legal or other technical language
- only use tables to present data
- include a description for informative images and make sure they are formatted appropriately
- provide a summary explaining patterns and trends of graphs and charts
- use descriptive link text so people understand the purpose of each link
- avoid using directional text
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 PDFs which are not tagged properly
- are not written in plain English
- are forms that are difficult to navigate using just a keyboard
- contain images with no description
- include complex tables
- are forms which have guidance in a separate PDF to help completion
This mostly applies to our:
- corporate reports
- technical guidance
- consultations and their supporting documents
- research and analysis reports
- statutory guidance
Some 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:
We’ll consider the request and get back to you in 10 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, contact our content team: email@example.com.
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
Defra 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 Defra publishes are partially compliant with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines version 2.1 AA standard, due to the non-compliances listed.
Non accessible content
The content listed is non accessible for the following reasons.
Non compliance with the accessibility regulations
A few of our documents have diagrams with no text alternative. 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 diagrams.
Some of our documents have diagrams that do not meet the colour contrast ratio of at least 3:1. These diagrams may be difficult to see, or completely missed, by people with a visual impairment. This does not meet WCAG 2.1 success criterion 1.4.11 (non-text contrast). We plan to fix our diagrams to meet colour contrast requirements.
A few of our documents have diagrams that use colour as the only means of conveying information. The information in these diagrams may not be perceived by users with colour deficiencies. This does not meet WCAG 2.1 success criterion 1.4.1 (use of colour). We plan to fix these so information is not only conveyed through colour, but also by another means.
Some of our forms do not have page functionality available for using a keyboard. This content cannot be operated through a keyboard or keyboard interface. This does not meet WCAG 2.1 success criterion 2.1.1 (keyboard). We plan to fix forms to meet the keyboard requirements.
Some of our documents are published in an unstructured PDF. Headings, list items and paragraphs may not be recognised by a screen reader. This does not meet WCAG 2.1 success criterion 1.3.1 (info and relationships). We plan to fix the documents and publish them with the appropriate structure.
Some of our 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 plan to fix the documents and publish them with the appropriate structure.
Some of our documents are published using tables to lay out text in columns on the page. This often hides content from the navigation pane or table of contents. This does not meet success criterion 2.4.6 (headings and labels) or success criterion 1.3.1 (info and relationships). We will make sure that tables are not used to lay out text.
- reviewed our documents published on GOV.UK since 23 September 2018
- identified that it would be a disproportionate burden to make all documents fully compliant
- fixed documents that are most used and are essential to providing our main services
This means that some of the following types of content are not fully compliant:
- technical papers aimed at a small audience
- spreadsheets which include macros and cannot easily be produced in a different format
- some forms (particularly if they are complex)
- legal instruments where we have to replicate the exact formatting, such as byelaws, charging schemes and standard rules
Contact us if you need these documents in an alternative format at the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Content that’s not within the scope of the accessibility regulations
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.
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).
Some of our documents contain maps. This does not meet a number of WCAG 2.1 success criterion, including 1.3, 1.4, 2.4, 2.5, 3.1 and 3.2. These types of documents are exempt from the regulations, so we do not currently have any plans to make them accessible. We will consider the use of maps in our documents and provide a text alternative if appropriate.
How we tested our documents
In January 2020 we audited all documents published since 23 September 2018. The Defra content team carried out the audit. As part of the audit we tested these documents to find accessibility issues.
- PDF documents
- Microsoft Excel documents
We decided to test these types of document as, aside from HTML, these are the most commonly used document formats Defra publishes online.
What we’re doing to improve accessibility
- updating corporate Word and PDF templates to an accessible format
- creating reports as HTML rather than PDF where possible
- raising awareness across the organisation and encouraging the use of clear English in reports
- training staff on meeting accessibility standards
- getting appropriate software to test PDFs and repair any issues reported
- testing with disability networks and assistive technology software
- making every effort to provide new or revised documents in an accessible format
This page was prepared on 18 September 2019. It was last updated on 21 September 2023.