What does Website Accessibility mean?
An accessible website is one that is fully optimized for all people, including those who have impaired vision or hearing, motor difficulties or learning disabilities.
Having an accessible website is not only the right thing to do from an ethical point of view in tackling discrimination but it also a legal requirement under the Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) Accessibility Regulations 2018. For mobile apps, accessibility requirements apply in the same way as websites and the deadline for meeting them is 23rd June 2021.
The Government Digital Service (GDS) monitor public sector bodies’ compliance on behalf of the Minister for the Cabinet Office. GDS do this by examining a sample of public sector websites every year. From June 2021, GDS will also check mobile applications published by public sector bodies.
Why is it important?
Most public sector websites and mobile apps do not currently meet accessibility requirements, with a recent study finding that 4 in 10 local council homepages failed basic tests for accessibility.
The accessibility regulations state that you must make your website or mobile app more accessible by making it ‘perceivable, operable, understandable and robust’. You will also need to include an accessibility statement on your website.
All public sector bodies have to meet the 2018 requirements, and these include:
- Central Government and Local Government Organisations
- Some Charities and Other Non-Government Organisations
Accessibility is not just about putting things online. It means making your content, format and design clear and simple so that people can use it without needing to adapt it, while also supporting those who do need to adapt things.
Poor websites disproportionately affect disabled users and those who have low digital skills, which effectively blocks them from access to services. The overlap of these groups and those who rely most heavily on support from public services is high, meaning that those who most need help can’t get it easily. Therefore, in implementing web accessibility best practices, you will ensure your website is more user-friendly for those who rely most heavily on your services.
When you implement accessibility features into your website, your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) will also improve. Therefore, your website will not only become faster and easier for your customers to use, but it will also appear higher in search engine rankings.
How can we help?
Since the regulations came into force, we have run CPD training courses alongside accessibility experts from All Able for a wide range of organisations across the public sector in preparation for their accessibility audits.
We reached out to delegates from our training course in January 2021, to get some feedback from them and to hear how the course has helped them to amend their websites and ensure it is accessible for as many people as possible. Here is what they had to say:
George and Ben (the trainers) were extremely engaging and knowledgeable and it was great to have expert opinion on the issues facing public sector bodies beyond central government.
Content Designer, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS)
This was an insightful, interesting event. I'm looking forward to going through all the new resources that were provided and sharing them with my team. Both speakers were very helpful and knowledgeable.
Digital Communications Officer, Brighton & Hove City Council
Great course, I gained a good insight into what my organisation needs to put in place for our website accessibility and compliance.
Marketing Communications Officer, Haywards Heath Town Council
This was a great event, very informative and the speakers were extremely knowledgeable. I would highly recommend.
Events & Promotions Officer, City Development, Leeds City Council
The course was very informative and useful to improve accessibility for our customers.
Principal Development Control Planner, Cannock Chase Council
Mobile applications need to be accessible by 23 June 2021, with accessibility requirements applied in the same way as websites for new, existing or outsourced mobile apps. From this point, the GDS will also check all mobile applications published by public sector bodies.
To support public sector organisation's ahead of this deadline to implement the appropriate changes and ensure compliance, our next CPD training course will take place on Wednesday 28th April 2021.