Accessible documents policy

Accessible documents at the Department for Transport.

This accessible documents policy applies to documents published on GOV.UK by the:

  • Department for Transport (DfT)
  • Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV)
  • Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee (DPTAC)
  • Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV)

It covers PDFs, spreadsheets, presentations and other types of documents. It doesn’t cover content published on GOV.UK as:

Using our documents

We publish documents in a range of formats, including:

  • Adobe PDF
  • MS Word and Excel
  • OpenDocument format

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 option where possible
  • tag headings and other parts of the document, so screen readers can understand the page structure
  • include alt text alongside non-decorative images, so people who can’t 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

Documents should be accessible if they are:

  • published after 23 September 2018
  • required to access our services (regardless of when published)

Some of our documents published before 23 September 2018 may not be accessible. For example, some of them:

  • are scans of documents
  • aren’t marked up in a way that allows screen reader users to understand them
  • aren’t tagged correctly – for example, they don’t contain proper headings
  • aren’t written in plain English

Some of these are historic documents that are not essential to providing our services. These types of documents are exempt from the accessibility regulations, so we don’t currently have any plans to make them accessible. You can contact us if you need these documents in an alternative format.

What to do if you can’t use one of our documents

Contact us if you need a document we’ve published in an alternative format.

Please let us know how you would like us to send you messages and documents. For example, audio recording or large print.

Email webmasterdft@dft.gov.uk

Digital Publishing Team
Department for Transport
Great Minster House
33 Horseferry Road
London
SW1P 4DR
United Kingdom

We’ll consider the request and get back to you within 7 working days.

Reporting accessibility problems with one of our documents

We’re always looking to improve the accessibility of our documents. Contact us if you find any problems that aren’t listed on this page or you think we’re not meeting accessibility requirements.

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. 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.

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

Non accessible content

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

Non-compliance with the accessibility regulations

Some documents we publish are produced for us by third parties. We are not always able to make these fully compliant. For example, ensuring sufficient contrast between text and background. This doesn’t meet WCAG 2.1 success criterion 1.4.3 contrast (minimum).

We have informed third parties of our accessibility requirements but sometimes we publish documents that are not accessible to meet deadlines. We try to:

  • fix these as soon as we can after publishing
  • also upload an ODT version of the inaccessible document

Some content must be produced in formal government templates. These templates may not be accessible. We will revisit the accessibility of these documents as new accessible templates are released. For example, impact assessment documents. Contact us if you need these documents in an alternative format.

For the benefit of users who print out documents, some PDF documents may contain URL links written out in full rather than hyperlinked descriptive text. This doesn’t meet WCAG 2.1 success criterion 2.4.4 link purpose (in context).

Disproportionate burden

We are not able to make some contractual and legal documents compliant. These documents are complex, technical and intended for a specialist audience. For example, rail franchise agreements, emergency measures agreements and emergency recovery measures agreements. Contact us if you need these documents in an alternative format.

Some programmes and initiatives we run will end soon. We consider the length of time that programmes and initiatives have left to run when fixing the accessibility of documents. We prioritise work on programmes and initiatives that will run for longer. Contact us if you need these short-term documents in an alternative format.

We publish some documents as ‘drafts for comment’. We may not make these documents accessible if they are technical and intended for a specialist audience. We will make the ‘final versions’ of these documents accessible. Contact us if you need these documents in an alternative format.

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

Some documents we publish are submitted to us by third-parties. We do not fund, develop or control this content. We are not able to make these compliant. For example, submissions to public inquiries or responses to consultations. The accessibility regulations don’t require us to make content submitted to us by third parties accessible.

We have thousands of historic PDF and MS Word documents on GOV.UK. We have reviewed and prioritised fixing the accessibility of our documents. We have fixed those that are most used or likely to be of specific interest to people with a disability.

Many of our older PDF and MS Word documents don’t meet accessibility standards. For example, they may not be structured so they’re accessible to a screen reader. This doesn’t meet WCAG 2.1 success criterion 2.4.10 (section headings).

Most of these older documents are not essential to providing our current services and are of historic interest only. This includes content that is withdrawn (archived on GOV.UK) or in history mode (published under previous governments).

The accessibility regulations don’t require us to fix PDFs or other documents published before 23 September 2018 if they’re not essential to providing our services. Contact us if you need these documents in an alternative format.

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

How we tested our documents

We last tested a sample of our documents on 2 November 2020. Staff at DfT carried out the test. We tested:

  • PDF files
  • HTML pages with embedded images and tables

We tested these documents based on how often people look at them and whether they directly relate to services aimed at disabled people.

What we’re doing to improve accessibility

To improve the accessibility of our GOV.UK documents, we:

  • have guidance and procedures to ensure that new documents we produce are accessible
  • ask authors to write in plain English and to publish more documents in HTML format
  • have terms and conditions specifying that authors, designers and typesetters must supply accessible documents
  • have issued guidelines for producing accessible documents to organisations supplying documents to DfT
  • review and edit older documents to add features to make them more accessible to people using screen readers
  • make PDF documents more accessible - or provide a suitable HTML alternative
  • add alt-text to graphs, diagrams and flowcharts

This page was prepared on 19 September 2019. It was last updated on 2 November 2020.