Web accessibility in the public sector

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Make Your Public Sector Website or App Accessible

Your Website & App Needs To Be Accessible

Public sector organisations in the United Kingdom have until September 2021 to make their websites and mobile applications fully accessible under new regulations set by the Government for web accessibility. The legislation, which came into force last year, specifies that these organisations must comply with the new rules and make the necessary changes.

New Accessibility Regulations For Public Sector Websites & Mobile Applications

New public sector websites, which were published after 22 September 2018, have until 22nd September 2019 to apply these changes. All other public sector websites must be accessible by 22nd September 2020. Public sector mobile applications need to be accessible by 22nd June 2021.

What Do These Changes Mean?

It means that the public sector will serve websites and mobile applications that are accessible to all users, especially to those who have disabilities. These regulations are called ‘The Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No.2) Accessibility Regulations 2018’. These regulations have been made the law in the UK and implement the EU Directive on the accessibility of public sector websites and mobile applications.

For some organisations, especially the ones running older sites and mobile apps, it can mean that they will be required to oversee big development and design changes so they adhere to the new rules and regulations. This will depend on the setup of the existing installation and application and how they are set up and configured. However, sometimes only small changes are required.

What Do You Need To Do?

The new regulations came into force for public sector organisations on 23 September 2018 which state that their website or mobile application needs to be made accessible by making it ‘perceivable, operable, understandable and robust’. 

The new legal requirements build on the public sectors existing obligations to disabled people under the Equality Act 2010 (or the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 in Northern Ireland). 

It is mentioned that all UK service providers must make ‘reasonable adjustments’ for people with disabilities. By meeting accessibility standards you are showing that you are making improvements for disabled users of your mobile application or website. Public sector organisations also need to provide information in another format if someone requests it, where it’s reasonable to do so.

If you are a type of organisation mentioned above then you need to make sure that your website and/or mobile application meets the new public sector requirement and make it more accessible so it complies with the international WCAG 2.1 AA accessibility standard. 

They do say that in some situations organisations may not have to fully meet the requirements for all of their website or app.

“This can be the case if making the changes to your website or app would cause what the new legal requirements call a ‘disproportionate burden’.

Quote from gov.uk

Public sector organisations can argue that something is a disproportionate burden but will need to carry out an assessment.

What do you need to do now?

We work with a number of organisations who can provide full audits on websites and mobile applications. Organisations such as RNIB and Ability Net can provide audit tests and we work with them to help some of our clients meet the required web accessibility standards. Following an audit, they will make recommendations to an application or installation which your developers will need to address. Once these changes have been addressed you would then contact the organisation who carried out the initial audit to check the changes and ask them to re-audit the site for you.

What can Ixis do for you?

Ixis were awarded the contract to deliver the new Haringey Council website in 2014  They wanted a complete re-design of their website and one of the requirements was they needed it to be fully accessible. They approached RNIB and SOCITM and asked them to provide an audit on their website. Recommendations and suggestions were made following the audit and Ixis made the appropriate development changes required. Their website has since gone on to win awards and was the first council in the UK to be accessible. We are very proud of this fact.

As part of the audit, the RNIB recruited volunteers to personally test the Haringey Council website and to score it on web accessibility. This volunteers tested their website on tablet, mobile and desktop devices and gave their own opinions. Testing was carried out at one of the RNIB centres in the UK.

Following the initial audit recommendations were made and these were passed back to the designers to make changes to the design. The design team made the required changes to the layout and design of the website and liaised with Ixis. Once they received the approval our development team then made the changes to the template files and structure of the design to meet the requirements. The site was then re-audited and it successfully passed, certificates were then awarded.

Accessibility in the Private sector

Although the regulations which have come out affect the public sector, the private sector should also follow things and adopt this approach. Many industries within the private sector would greatly benefit from having a fully accessible website and mobile applications. These industries include entertainment, media, banks, health and membership organisations which are all used by a large audience and many people.

No one is exempt, for example, Beyonce, the American singer, has been in the news and is facing a possible lawsuit following claims made by a fan that her website is not accessible. Will this change the way the private sector operates? If so, this could have consequences to the industry!

The financial sector isn’t immune to the need for increased web accessibility across the web. They understand the importance of having a website and mobile application which is accessible to disabled people. Organisations which deal with large volumes of consumers need to have websites and mobile applications that are accessible to their disabled customers. Failing to do so may result in the customer moving their accounts to another bank. 

If you are interested in making your website accessible you could always attend one of the many sessions which are being held up and down the country. One event which is scheduled to take place in January 2019 is an event in Leeds. In attendance will be Andrew Macpherson (core maintainer for Drupal8 Accessibility) and Brian Teeman (Co-founder of Joomla) who have web accessibility issues ready to be fixed.

A guide to web accessibility

In late 2017 one of our talented developers, Josh attended a training day held by Drupal core accessibility maintainer, Andrew Macpherson. Josh took everything he learned on the day and put together a very useful blog post for your consumption. 


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Simon J

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