Accessible documents policy

This policy explains how accessible the documents we publish 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 covers that.

Using our documents

The VMD publishes documents in a range of formats, including:

  • PDF
  • PDF forms
  • Microsoft Excel
  • Microsoft Word
  • Microsoft PowerPoint
  • OpenDocument formats (for example .odt or .ods)

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
  • use plain English - although some content contains legal or technical language
  • include a 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 in accessible format.

We know that some of our older documents (published before 23 September 2018) and forms which we plan to make digital in future, are not accessible. For example, some of them:

  • are not tagged up properly - for instance, they have no heading structure
  • are not written in plain English
  • contain images without a textual description
  • include complex tables
  • are forms that 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 have published in a different format:

We will consider the request and get back to you in 10 working days.

Reporting accessibility problems with one of our documents

We are 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 are not meeting accessibility requirements, contact

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 are not happy with how we respond to the concern you have raised, contact the Equality Advisory and Support Service (EASS).

Technical information about the accessibility of our documents

The VMD 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 VMD publishes are compliant with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines version 2.1 AA standard, unless stated otherwise.

Disproportionate burden

We have:

  • 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:

  • long technical papers aimed at a small audience
  • spreadsheets which cannot be easily be produced/ delivered in a different format
  • some forms (particularly if they are complex)
  • legal instruments where we have to replicate the exact formatting

Contact us if you need these documents in an alternative format at the following email address:

Content that is 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. For example, we do not plan to fix research and analysis reports.

Many of our older PDFs and Word documents do not meet accessibility standards - for example, they may not be structured so they are accessible to a screen reader. This does not meet WCAG 2.1 success criterion 4.1.2 (name, role value).

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

How we tested our documents

The Defra content team carried out an audit to find accessibility issues in January 2020 on all documents published since 23 September 2018.

We tested:

  • Word forms
  • 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 the VMD publishes online.

Help us to improve accessibility

Tell us about any issues you find with our content that make it difficult for you to access the information you need within the content pages, please email these to

This page was last updated on 28 September 2022.