Accessible documents policy

This policy explains how accessible the documents the Education and Skills Agency (ESFA) publishes on GOV.UK are.

Accessible documents at ESFA

This policy covers PDFs, spreadsheets, presentations and other types of document that ESFA published on GOV.UK.

It doesn’t cover content published on GOV.UK as HTML: the main GOV.UK accessibility statement will cover that.

Using our documents

ESFA publishes documents in a range of formats, including PDFs, spreadsheets (including Excel, ODS and CSV formats) and Microsoft Word documents.

We want as many people as possible to be able to use these 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 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

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) aren’t accessible. For example, some of them:

  • aren’t tagged up properly - for example, they don’t contain proper headings
  • aren’t written in plain English
  • use colour to indicate meaning
  • contain images and diagrams that do not contain alt text

This mostly applies to our guidance and transparency documents. These types of documents are exempt from the regulations, so we don’t 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 we’ll do if you can’t use one of our documents

If you need a document we’ve published in a different format, please email us at ESFA.GOVUK-ENQUIRIES@education.gov.uk.

We’ll consider the request and get back to you in 5 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 that aren’t listed on this page or you think we’re not meeting accessibility requirements, contact us via email at ESFA.GOVUK-ENQUIRIES@education.gov.uk.

In your email, please include details of the document you were trying to access and why you could not access the document.

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

ESFA 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 ESFA 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

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

Non-compliance with the accessibility regulations

Success criterion 1.1.1: non-text content

Some of our documents have diagrams and/or tables. Some of these do not have a text alternative, so the information in them isn’t available to people using a screen reader. This doesn’t meet WCAG 2.1 success criterion 1.1.1 (non-text content).

We plan to add text alternatives for all diagrams and tables by September 2020. We will ensure they meet accessibility standards.

Success criterion 1.2.1: audio-only and video-only (pre-recorded)

We sometimes publish videos on our GOV.UK pages to help users understand a process. Some of these videos do not have accurate subtitles, so the information in them isn’t available to those who cannot watch the videos. This doesn’t meet WCAG 2.1 success criterion 1.2.1 (audio-only and video-only).

We plan to add subtitles to all videos published on GOV.UK by September 2020. We will also ensure that information presented in our videos is also available in text format on the page.

Success criterion 1.3.1: info and relationships

Some of our documents do not identify headings, lists or data tables correctly. This means users using screen readers may not be able to follow the structure of a document, which in turn may affect their ability to access and understand the information. This doesn’t meet WCAG 2.1 success criterion 1.3.1 (info and relationships).

We plan to ensure all our documents have a correct structure, so that they are accessible to users using assistive technologies, by September 2020.

Success criterion 1.3.3: sensory characteristics

Some of our documents use sensory characteristics, such as colour, shape, or size, to convey information. This means users with visual access needs may not be able to understand the information. This doesn’t meet the WCAG 2.1 success criterion 1.3.3 (sensory characteristics).

We plan to ensure that our documents will not rely solely on sensory characteristics to convey information by September 2020.

Success criterion 1.4.1: use of colour

In some of our documents colour is used to convey meaning, for instance on deadlines or important actions our users must take. This means users who cannot see will not be able understand the meaning the colour is supposed to convey. This doesn’t meet WCAG 2.1 success criterion 1.4.1 (sensory characteristics).

We plan to ensure that none of our documents use colour to convey meaning only by September 2020.

Success criterion 1.4.5: images of text

Some of our documents and pages contain images of text to convey information, rather than plain text. This means users either using a text-only browser or using assistive technology may not be able to understand the image of text. This doesn’t meet WCAG 2.1 success criterion 1.4.5 (images of text).

We plan to ensure that none our documents and pages use images of text to convey information only by September 2020.

Success criterion 2.4.2: page title

Some of our documents and pages do not have titles that describe the topic or purpose of the page. This is often the case where we have older pages created some time ago. This makes it hard for users to navigate and find the content they need. This doesn’t meet WCAG 2.1 success criterion 2.4.2.

We plan to give our web pages titles that describe the topic or purpose of the page by September 2020.

Some links in our documents do not contain context in the link text. This makes it hard for users using assistive technology to understand what the link is for, and where they would be directed to if clicked. This doesn’t meet the WCAG 2.1 success criterion 2.4.4 (link purpose (in context)).

We plan to give all our links context by September 2020 so that their purpose can be determined from the link text.

Success criterion 4.1.2: name, role, value

Some of our documents are not structured properly. This means they may not be accessible for users using screen readers or other assistive technology. This doesn’t meet WCAG 2.1 success criterion 4.1.2.

We plan to give our documents a proper structure by September 2020 so that users using screen readers or other assistive technology can access them.

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

Some of our older documents don’t meet accessibility standards. For example, they:

  • do not contain alternative text for diagrams and/or images – this does not meet WCAG 2.1 success criterion 1.1.1
  • use images of text, rather than plain text – this does not meet WCAG 2.1 success criterion 1.4.5
  • are not structured properly – this does not meet WCAG 2.1 success criterion 4.1.2

Where these documents are essential to providing our services, we plan to fix these or replace them with accessible HTML pages by September 2020.

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. For example, we don’t plan to fix the Funding rates and formula guidance for 2016 to 2017.

How we tested our documents

We last tested a sample of our documents between 15 to 23 August 2018. We decided to test the documents published on ESFA’s top 120 pages, ranked by pageviews. This test was carried out by ESFA’s corporate communications team.

We tested:

  • PDF documents using Adobe Acrobat Pro XI, running a full accessibility check, followed by a visual inspection where needed
  • spreadsheets using Excel’s inbuilt accessibility checker and a visual inspection.
  • Word documents using Word’s inbuilt accessibility checker and a visual inspection

What we’re doing to improve accessibility

To improve accessibility we are:

  • working with colleagues across ESFA to improve awareness and knowledge about accessibility and the law
  • providing tools and techniques to GOV.UK publishers to improve the accessibility of our documents
  • auditing content published in the last year to identify where improvements can be made
  • completing ‘spot checks’ on recently published documents to ensure they are accessible
  • converting PDF documents to HTML formats on GOV.UK
  • making sure the correct document templates designed to be accessible are being used, where a PDF is being published
  • providing an OpenDocument version of Word and Excel documents, where possible
  • publishing data in CSV files, where possible
  • replacing longer PDF documents with the digital manuals format (for example, our apprenticeship funding rules and the Academies Financial Handbook are now available as a manual)

This page was prepared on 13 September 2019.