What you will need to do to make your public sector website or mobile app meet new accessibility regulations
New regulations mean that public sector websites and mobile apps will need to be accessible to all users, especially those with disabilities.
The regulations come into force in 3 stages.
|What’s covered||When the regulations will apply|
|New websites (published after 23 September 2018)||23 September 2019|
|Existing websites||23 September 2020|
|Mobile apps||23 June 2021|
You’ll be breaking the law if your website or app is not accessible. There will be government checks to make sure that websites and apps follow the rules.
Some of the detail of the new requirements is still being confirmed. This guide will be updated in the summer to clarify things like which organisations are covered, what you need to do to comply, the effect on your other accessibility obligations, and exemptions.
What you’ll need to do
Unless your organisation is exempt, you must both:
- meet accessibility standards
- publish an accessibility statement
Meeting accessibility standards
The regulations say you have to make your website or mobile app more accessible for disabled people by making it perceivable, operable, understandable and robust.
Your website or app will meet the requirements if meets European accessibility standard EN 301 549. This standard currently uses the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 to level AA, but may be updated to use WCAG 2.1.
Perceivable means that information and user interface components must be presented to users in ways they can perceive in some way - it can’t be invisible to all of their senses.
Operable means that any person must be able to use interface components (such as buttons and forms) and navigation - these can’t require interaction that a user can’t perform.
Understandable means users must be able to understand any information presented, as well as being able to operate the interface (the content or operation cannot be beyond their understanding).
Robust means that the content must be capable of being interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies such as screen readers - it also means users must be able to access the content as technology changes over time.
For more information about accessibility, you can read:
- the Web Accessibility Initiative’s introduction to making websites accessible
- the GOV.UK Service Manual guide to understanding WCAG 2.0
The government will also be providing additional support and guidance to help organisations meet the new rules.
You’ll need to publish an accessibility statement.
- be in an accessible format
- be updated frequently
- use the model accessibility statement framework adopted by the European Commission (this will be provided by Dec 2018)
This statement must include:
- a list of any parts of the website or app that are not accessible, an explanation of why, and links to accessible alternatives where appropriate
- a way for users to tell you if any content does not meet the accessibility requirements, and to request information they are excluded from
- details of the official enforcement procedure that people can use if they are dissatisfied with your response - the link to use will be confirmed
For apps, your statement must be provided whenever your app is available for download. For example, you could include it in its description in the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store.
When you do not need to meet the rules
The new requirements will apply to public sector bodies.
Some organisations and types of content do not need to meet the new standards.
If the requirements place a disproportionate burden
You’ll need to assess what steps you need to take to make your website or app meet the new standards, if it does not already.
Your organisation will not need to meet the new standards if doing so would create a disproportionate burden.
To work out what’s proportionate, consider things like:
- the benefits to users with disabilities of meeting the standards
- the cost of compliance
- the size of your organisation
- your audience
You won’t be exempt based on a lack of priority, time or knowledge.
If your assessment shows that the changes you’d need to make would place a disproportionate burden on your organisation, you must:
- explain this in your accessibility statement
- include an explanation of what parts of the requirements you could not comply with
- what accessible alternatives you provide, if any
Special rules for schools, nurseries, NGOs and broadcasters
There are special rules for:
- schools, nursery kindergartens or nurseries - only content relating to essential online administrative functions needs to meet the new rules
- non-governmental organisations (NGOs) - you only need to meet the rules if you provide services essential to the public, or services that specifically address the needs of persons with disabilities
Public service broadcasters, their subsidiaries, and other organisations fulfilling a public service remit, are exempt.
Types of content that are exempt
The new requirements will not apply to:
- documents that are not intended primarily for use on the web and that are included in web pages (such as PDFs, MS Office documents or equivalent) published before 23 September 2018
- pre-recorded media, such as videos and podcasts, published before 23 September 2020
- live video - but the requirements will apply to videos made available after a live event
- online maps and mapping services, as long as essential information is provided in an accessible digital manner for maps intended for navigational use
- third party content that is not under the control of the public sector body concerned
- reproductions of items in heritage collections, such as scanned manuscripts
- content of intranets and extranets published before 23 September 2019, until those websites undergo a substantial revision
- content of websites and mobile applications qualifying as archives, meaning that they only contain content that is not needed for active administrative processes or updated or edited after 23 September 2019
Get support to meet the new rules
The government will help organisations meet the new rules by producing guidance, raising awareness and, where appropriate, providing links to training.
The EU Directive on the accessibility of public sector websites and mobile applications requires UK public sector body websites and apps to be more accessible, unless it would be disproportionate to do so.
The Directive says that public sector websites or apps will meet the requirements if they meet European accessibility standard EN 301 549. This standard currently uses the WCAG 2.0 international accessibility standard to level AA, but may be updated to use WCAG 2.1.
The Directive builds on existing UK legislation and commitments such as the Equality Act 2010, which includes a duty on service providers to make reasonable adjustments for persons with disabilities (and other protected characteristics) when providing services and exercising public functions.
The implementation of the new rules is not affected by the UK’s decision to leave the EU.
This is because until the UK leaves the EU, all the rights and obligations of EU membership remain in force. The Directive is also in line with the government’s current policy on accessibility. In the transition period, the government will continue to implement and apply EU legislation. In line with this policy, the government will implement the Directive in accordance with our EU law obligations.