Accessible documents policy

How the Department for International Trade (DIT) has ensured the documents it publishes are accessible.


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

Using our documents

DIT publishes documents in a range of formats, including PDFs, Excel documents, ODTs, CSV and PowerPoint presentations.

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 text descriptions of 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 scans or 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

  • do not offer alternative text descriptions written images and diagrams

This mostly applies to our PDFs and other documents published before 23 September 2018.

These types of documents are exempt from the regulations, 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 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, contact digital@trade.gov.uk.

Enforcement procedure

In England, Wales and Scotland, 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).

In Northern Ireland, the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland 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 Commission for Northern Ireland.

Technical information about the accessibility of our documents

DIT 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 DIT publishes are partially compliant with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines version 2.1 AA standard, due to the non-compliances listed below.

Non-accessible content

We host a small number of forms which users relying on keyboard input may find more difficult to complete. We are working on a solution for these.

Content that has been made accessible in an alternative format

A small number of PDFs in scope of the regulations were found to be so inherently complex, or long, that they could not be fixed or converted to HTML. Where this has happened, we have made problematic parts of the content available in alternative accessible formats (for example, offering tables as separate .csv attachments).

We recognise that even the accessible PDF/A format is not always fully accessible. Where we use this format we have ensured it is as accessible as possible.

Disproportionate burden

2 PDFs, Strategic export controls: licensing statistics, 1 October to 31 December 2008 and The impact of publicly funded export promotion services, fail to meet several WCAG 2.1 AA criteria as parts of the files cannot be used by assistive technologies.

These files would require a disproportionate amount of resources to publish in an accessible format when their complexity and length are weighed against how often they are downloaded. If you would like to access either of these files and are unable to, please contact us by emailing digital@trade.gov.uk.

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

Many of our older PDFs and other file attachments 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.

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. However, requests can be made to make specific content accessible for those who need it.

Any new PDFs we publish will meet accessibility standards, although our aim will always be to publish primarily in HTML.

How we tested our documents

We tested 206 PDF documents published between September 23 2018 and July 30 2018, and a sample of other document formats. The test was carried out by DIT staff.

We tested:

  • PDFs

  • Word documents

  • Excel documents

  • PowerPoint presentations

  • Open Documents

47 PDFs were found to be inaccessible, 46 of which have since been either taken down, converted to HTML or had problematic elements such as tables offered in an alternative format. The other PDF is listed above under ‘Disproportionate burden’.

The sample of other attachments tested (.xls, .doc, .odt) did not present accessibility problems.

What we’re doing to improve accessibility

We are going to ensure all future documents are published in accessible formats.

We are also going to work to improve the readability of our content to better meet the WCAG 2.1 AA ‘understandable’ criteria.

This page was last updated on 18 November 2021