23 September is here. What does this mean for you and accessibility?

Today, 23 September, is finally here. This means it is now a legal requirement for public sector websites created before 23 September 2018 to meet new accessibility rules. Websites published on or after 23 September 2018 should already be compliant.

What does compliance look like? It means all public sector websites must publish an accessibility statement, provide a way of getting in contact about accessibility issues, and meet Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.1) to level AA. 

A graphic with the word 'Accessible' followed by an asterisk pointing towards small print which reads 'Inaccessible'.

Why is accessibility so important?

Everyone interacts with the government at one point or another. From arranging car tax to registering to vote, public sector websites are at the forefront of how people access critical services. That makes accessibility a must-have, rather than a nice-to-have. 

Knowing this, accessibility is something all government communicators should be considering during all aspects and stages of their work. 

Support for members of the Government Communication Service (GCS) comes in the form of guides to setting up accessible websites and how to create impactful and accessible social media work.

What’s next?

The Government Digital Service (GDS) is responsible for monitoring public body websites as part of their role within the Cabinet Office.

When monitoring websites, GDS gives website owners time to fix issues found. GDS will then work with enforcement bodies Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and Equality Commission for Northern Ireland (ECNI) to determine what next steps are needed, if necessary. 

GDS aims to help the public sector by holding regular webinars on accessibility best practice and keeping the sector updated with guidance. For more information and the latest advice from GDS you can go to the accessibility campaigns site. You can also watch the Global Accessibility Awareness Day webinars to hear experts giving practical advice on improving digital accessibility across services and public sector websites. 

Richard Morton, head of accessibility at GDS.
Richard Morton, head of accessibility at GDS.

June 2021 deadline for mobile applications

By 23 June 2021 all public sector mobile apps must be accessible. If you publish mobile apps, it’s now a good time to start planning – you will need to run an audit and fix any accessibility issues you might have.

For more details on the next steps you can read the GDS guidance on making your website or app accessible.

Further resources

You can find information on the regulations at GOV.UK/accessibility-regulations and more guidance on writing accessible content on GOV.UK’s content design guidance pages.

    Image credits:
  • Government Digital Service (GDS) (1)
  • Richard Morton, head of accessibility at GDS (2)