Digital Accessibility and Regulations

There are several regulations and obligations that Public Sector Bodies must adhere to when it comes to Digital Accessibility. These regulations form the basis for the actions that organisations need to take.

New accessibility regulations require Public Sector Bodies websites and mobile applications to be design, procure and maintain systems that meet the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1 AA standard. Essentially this requires that digital content is meets the POUR requirements:

  • Perceivable
  • Operable
  • Understandable
  • Robust

There are three main pieces of legislation that you need to be aware of when considering Digital Accessibility:

  • The Equality Act 2010
  • The Public Sector Equality Duty
  • The Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) Accessibility Regulations 2018
  • Disability Discrimination Act 1995

The Equality Act 2010

The Equality Act 2010 remains a vital piece of legislation when it comes to digital accessibility and has in no way been superseded by the newer regulations, but rather now benefits from clarifications that the new regulations have made.

Because the Equality Act still applies and now there is a more specific explanation and measure  for reasonable adjustments when it comes to digital accessibility, organisations should be thinking about the accessibility of all digital platforms not just their websites.

The Public Sector Equality Duty

The Public Sector Equality Duty is a part of the Equality Act and requires public bodies and others carrying out public functions to have due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination, to advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations.

This Duty adds further specific guidance around the responsibilities of Public Sector organisations in delivering equality beyond that already listed in the Equality Act. In essence it puts more pressure on Public Sector bodies to provide services that are equal to all, more so than any other sector as Public Sector services have to be used by all and is often a non-competitive environment so users have no choice but to interact with certain organisations.

The Government Quick start Guide to the Public Sector Equality Duty is a useful document which explains what the Duty does, who is affected, and what needs to be done.

Disability Discrimination Act 1995

If you are operating or have users in Northern Ireland you will also have to be aware of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 which was repealed and superseded by the Equality Act 2010 in England, Scotland and Wales, but is still active for Northern Ireland.

The act makes it unlawful to discriminate against people in respect of their disabilities in relation to employment, the provision of goods and services, education and transport.

The Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) Accessibility Regulations 2018

Introduction to the Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) Accessibility Regulations 2018 includes links to presentations and webinars that give a good introduction to the regulation.

The What is a website (from an accessibility perspective)? article explains what you would think is a simple question but it is important question when you are considering if a website meets web accessibility regulations.

Disproportionate Burden – Sometimes you will not be able to make something accessible and this could be considered a disproportionate burden. Proving disproportionate burden can be difficult.

Monitoring and Enforcement – The Government Digital Service (GDS) are the monitoring body for the regulations while the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) are the enforcement body.

Public Sector Accessibility Regulations Timelines – One of the most complex part of the guidelines is understanding when parts of your website need to meet the accessibility standards. In our timeline post we attempt to unpack the requirements with examples of how they will impact universities and virtual learning platforms.

Regulation Exemptions – There are many exemptions to the regulations in terms of content, platforms and organisations. There are also exemptions such as schools that are slightly misleading with Schools still having lots of work to complete.