The scope for the Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) Accessibility Regulations 2018 (PSBAR) is still not comprehensively defined and which organisations and content come in scope will continue to evolve as case law develops. Within the scope are a number of exemptions and grey areas that will be discussed in the sections below.
It should be made clear that while the regulations are titled Website and Mobile Applications Accessibility Regulations, the definition of what a “website” is in the official interpretation creates a much wider scope than what might first be expected.
A “website” in this regulatory context means any internal or external system that an organisations built, purchased or has control of, that is viewed through a web browser. Therefore this means the regulations apply to public facing websites, internal systems including intranets and all web based tools that staff use (such as Office 365 products, many finance and HR systems etc.), Forms packages or other pieces of software used for online user journeys and much more.
The question to ask is: “Is the thing you are talking about viewed via a web browser?”
If the answer is yes than it is likely in scope.
Mobile apps are a more simple question. If it is an application run on a mobile device that your organisation developed or purchased or controls for some other reason, then it is in scope.
The other thing to think about besides websites and mobile apps, is documents. This is a less thought of aspect to the regulations. Any documents that you make available to users through a web service should be accessible. Now there is some exemption for user generated content as you cannot be expected to manage the accessibility of every document staff send to each other and access through an email web app. This is explained more in the Exemptions page.
What you must consider is documents that can be seen to be authored by the organisations to an audience. For example PDF forms that form part of an application process. Reports and policy documents published on your public facing website. Or any HR, recruitment or other documentation that is an “official” communication from the authority to staff.
Now that we have discussed content, we should discuss the scope of organisations.
As mentioned the full scope for the regulations has not yet been defined but there explanations in the regulations which define how organisations will be judged in scope.
The way in which this is explained is all over the place in the actual legal document and hidden in double negatives and easier to understand in the order below.
“public sector body” means—
- the State;
- regional or local authorities;
- bodies governed by public law; or
- associations formed by one or more of the authorities in paragraph (b) or one or more of the bodies in paragraph (c), if those associations are established for the specific purpose of meeting needs in the general interest, not having an industrial or commercial character;
“bodies governed by public law” means—
- They are established for the specific purpose of meeting needs in the general interest, not having an industrial or commercial character;
- They have legal personality; and
- They have any of the following characteristics-
- They are financed, for the most part, by the State, regional or local authorities, or by other bodies governed by public law;
- They are subject to management supervision by those authorities or bodies;
- They have an administrative, managerial or supervisory board, more than half of whose members are appointed by the State, regional or local authorities, or by other bodies governed by public law;
Other services that don’t meet the above descriptions but are still in scope are—
- non-governmental organisations (NGOs), that provide services that are essential to the public or specifically address the needs of, or are meant for, persons with disabilities;
- schools or nurseries, specifically content of their websites or mobile applications relating to essential online administrative functions.
Decisions on the exact scope are the responsibility of the Government Digital Service and will evolve over time.
There are many exemptions in the regulations and they are sometimes worded with double negatives making it complex to understand what is and is not in scope. Read this article for a full explanation of exemptions.
Public Sector Bodies do in many cases hold responsibility for 3rd party content and software they use to deliver services to users. This is a really complicated area of the regulations but this article goes into a lot of detail to help explain. It also has lots of information on the growing list of 3rd party supplier statements.
Web vs Native apps
Because of the expectation that services such as Microsoft Office 365 products are within scope of the regulations as they are accessed through a web browser, there is often the question whether “native applications” or “desktop applications” also have to be compliant.
Only content accessed through a web browser must be compliant with PSBAR, therefore native applications such as the desktop versions of Microsoft Teams, One Note etc. do not have to be compliant. However they will still have to comply with the Equality Act and be usable through reasonable adjustments if necessary.
Documents are an often overlooked part of the regulation scope considering the title is websites and mobile applications. There are a few important points about documents that you should be aware of that we have covered in this article.
Intranets and VLEs have slightly different deadlines and expectations under the regulations that mainly hinge around the concept of substantial revision.
Video and Audio content
Video and audio content counts as “time-based media” under the regulations. Live time-based media does not have to be accessible. Live is considered up to 14 days from when the content aired. After 14 days it becomes pre-recorded time based media. pre-recorded media published after 23rd September 2020 must be accessible so must have captions, audio-descriptions or transcripts (as applicable). Old pre-recorded content is exempt from the regulations. Find out more about making accessible video and audio content in the tools section.