2021 Government Accessibility Regulations For Websites and Mobile Applications

The Public Sector Bodies Accessibility Regulations were put into place in 2018. They aim to eliminate any disparity between the abled and disabled users of the web in all contexts; on both websites and mobile applications.

The regulations target public sector organisations, but judging by other countries, the private sector should prepare for possible legislative change in the future surrounding web accessibility.

Although these regulations have been enshrined in UK law for websites since September 2018, mobile applications received an extended deadline. However, on the 23rd of June 2021, it will be a legal requirement for the public sector to comply with these regulations across all digital platforms.

We’ve tried to condense the regulations into an easy to digest format. Read on to find out everything you need to know about the regulations and how they might affect you.

Why do we need accessibility online?

If you follow our blog, you’ll already be familiar with the fact that over 14 million people in the UK are disabled. Despite this, accessibility is often still an afterthought in the digital design processes, if considered at all.

“accessibility requirement” means the requirement to make a website or mobile application accessible by making it perceivable, operable, understandable and robust – HM Governament

By making websites and apps accessible, you give everyone a fair chance to use online resources, including, but not limited to those with:

  • Impaired vision.

  • Motor difficulties.

  • Cognitive impairments or learning disabilities.

  • Deafness or impaired hearing.

These regulations are crucial for the public sector because their services are often essential with no alternative options. Yet, even after it became a legal requirement for websites in 2018, large councils are still non-compliant.

A recent study (October 2020) conducted by the charity SCOPE uncovered that out of the 10 largest county councils in the UK, 9 still failed to meet the accessibility standards mapped out in the legislation.

Providing a reasonable adjustment to your services

As with The Equality Act 2010, this legislation also requires you to make a reasonable adjustment to your digital services. Ensuring you provide equal access to disabled users.

Common accessibility problems include:

  • Bad mobile versions of websites.

  • Websites with poor keyboard navigation.

  • Documents and website formats that inhibit screen readers.

  • No options for printing or increased magnification.

  • Insufficient subtitling or audio description on live time-based media e.g. video content.

  • Poor colour contrast.

A website should be designed to provide an optimised experience or at least an alternative format wherever possible for specific disabilities. For example, you can make sure websites and apps are optimised for screen readers by following these best practices:

  1. Implementing the correct heading tags.

  2. Structuring content with paragraphs.

  3. Using descriptive and optimised links.

  4. Correctly formatting page elements.

  5. Removing hover states.

  6. Adding descriptive alt text for images.

Key inclusions and exclusions

The regulations will have varying levels of impact depending on which area of the public sector you represent. Local and central government bodies must be fully compliant with these regulations.

Those excluded are:

  • NGOs that do not rely solely on public funding.

  • Public sector broadcasters.

  • Educational institutions such as nurseries, primary schools and secondary schools.*

*Schools must only comply when they offer an essential service like free school meals.

Disproportionate Burden

Some leeway has been provided by the government in certain cases. These are circumstances where implementing the required changes would cause a ‘disproportionate burden.’ These are evaluated by the following criteria:

  • What is the nature of your organisation? E.g. do you cater to people with disabilities directly?

  • Will making these changes put pressure on your budget and inhibit you from delivering other areas of your service?

  • How much would a disabled user benefit from the changes being made?

If a pubic sector body cannot make reasonable changes they must clarify why in an official assessment.

In other cases, you are unlikely to be granted any leeway if you are a service that aids:

  • Disabled people directly.

or

  • Enable people to participate in society e.g. voting or finding work.

Contributing to the accessibility community

As a company that produces digital software, we must promote inclusive design within our business and the work we create for our clients. We hope that this article helps you to better understand the implications of these regulations.

To promote awareness about accessibility in digital design, we frequently publish content that contributes to increasing awareness on the subject. You can gain more insights by reading our dedicated whitepaper. If you have any questions about accessibility in design, don’t hesitate to contact us.

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