Accessible documents policy

What the Environment Agency is doing on accessibility and how it plans to meet the accessibility regulations.

Accessible documents at the Environment Agency

This policy explains how accessible the documents the Environment Agency 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

The Environment Agency publishes documents in a range of formats, including:

  • PDF
  • PDF forms
  • Microsoft Excel
  • Microsoft Word
  • Microsoft PowerPoint
  • ODT (OpenDocument Text)
  • ODS (OpenDocument Spreadsheet)
  • CSV (Comma-Separated Values)
  • XML (eXtensible Markup Language)
  • XSD (XML Schema Definition)
  • Zip

We want as many people as possible to be able to use these documents. For example, when we produce a document we:

  • provide an HTML option where possible
  • avoid using tables, except when we’re presenting data
  • write in plain English
  • include text alternative alongside non-decorative images, so people who cannot see them understand what they’re there for
  • tag headings and other parts of the document, so screen readers can understand the page structure
  • make document titles clear and meaningful
  • use descriptive link text so people understand the purpose of each link
  • avoid writing instructions that rely on visual cues
  • provide descriptive text transcripts for videos

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 accessible.

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

  • are not tagged up properly - for example, they do not contain heading structure
  • are not written in plain English
  • are online forms that are difficult to navigate using just a keyboard
  • contain images without a textual description
  • include complex tables
  • are forms which have guidance in a separate PDF to help completion

This mostly applies to these document types:

  • corporate reports
  • technical guidance
  • consultations and their supporting documents
  • research and analysis reports
  • statutory guidance
  • forms
  • statistics

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 as soon as possible.

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 are not listed on this page or you think we’re not meeting accessibility requirements, contact enquiries@environment-agency.gov.uk. Our digital content team will look into your comments.

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

The Environment Agency 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 the Environment Agency 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 in the non compliance section is not accessible for the following reasons.

Non compliance with the accessibility regulations

We plan to fix all non compliant documents published since 23 September 2018 by September 2020. When we publish new documents we aim to make sure they are accessible.

Some of our documents have diagrams with no text alternative. The information in these diagrams 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 vision deficiencies. This does not meet WCAG 2.1 success criterion 1.4.1 (use of colour). We plan to fix so information is not only conveyed through colour, but also by another visual 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. Column headings may be blank. Workbook 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.

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

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 PDFs and Word documents are essential to providing our services. For example, we have PDFs with information on how users can access our services, 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 research and analysis reports.

For any new PDFs or Word documents we publish, we plan to meet accessibility standards.

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

We last tested a sample of our documents in August 2019. The test was carried out by Defra’s digital content team and Environment Agency digital editors. We manually sampled and tested a number of pages to find accessibility issues.

We tested:

  • 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 in the Environment Agency.

What we’re doing to improve accessibility

The Environment Agency is:

  • updating corporate Word and PDF templates to an accessible format
  • creating corporate reports as HTML rather than PDF where possible
  • changing guidance documents from PDF to HTML and making them task based
  • raising awareness across the organisation
  • converting to HTML (where possible) as documents come up for review
  • training staff on meeting accessibility standards
  • getting appropriate software to make accessible PDFs
  • testing with disability networks and assistive technology software

This page was prepared on 23 September 2019. It was last updated on 23 September 2019.