Accessible documents policy

Accessible documents at the Veterinary Medicines Directorate.

Our 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

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

We publish new documents and documents you need to download or fill in to access one of the services in an accessible format.

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 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 respond to you in 15 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 Our digital content team will look into your comments.

Enforcement procedure

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

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’).

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 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.

This mainly applies to content produced in 2018 and 2019 and therefore needs to be amended retrospectively. We plan to fix this content by 30 September 2021.

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 these 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 for all forms to be made accessible online.

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).

  • The VMD’s Annual Report & Accounts 2019/2020
  • Application forms

Disproportionate burden

We cannot guarantee that all of our documents are fully accessible. We consider that it would be a disproportionate burden to update complex PDFs and authorisation application forms.

If PDFs are extremely long and used by a low number of people we have no plans to make these accessible. All authorisation application forms will eventually be made accessible online through our digital service.

Content that is 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 are accessible to a screen reader. This does not meet WCAG 2.1 success criterion 4.1.2 (name, role value).

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.

How we tested our documents

In January 2020 we audited all documents published since 23 September 2018. The Defra content team carried out the audit. As part of the audit we tested these documents to find accessibility issues. 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.

What we are doing to improve accessibility

The VMD 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 VMD of the accessibility requirements
  • 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 content with disability networks and assistive technology software