The Public Sector and Accessibility
An EU Directive is coming into force that will require public sector bodies to provide accessible websites and apps.
This is a fantastic step toward making sure that all websites are accessible, with public sector bodies leading the way with compliant websites.
Currently there is little consistency across different public sector bodies and accessibility. Some departments have made specific efforts to be as accessible as possible, whereas others, for various reasons, fall short of the requirements.
This EU directive aims to bring all public sector websites and apps up to an accessible standard.
What is this directive?
Directive (EU) 2016/2102 states that all “Member States shall ensure that public sector bodies take the necessary measures to make their websites and mobile applications more accessible by making them perceivable, operable, understandable and robust.”
This uses the same language as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), the industry standard for web accessibility and the measure by which companies like Dig Inclusion assess websites.
The public sector covers numerous areas including health, security, councils, government agencies and education. Almost everyone will have regular contact with a public sector body and their decisions affect each of us in some way.
Having the ability to access the services each public sector body offers is important, especially for the most vulnerable in our society. With around 14 million people in the UK having a disability, it’s vital that public sector bodies provide a way for their websites and apps to be accessible.
When does this directive come into effect?
There are four stages to this directive and when websites and apps must be fully compliant. The first stage is that this directive will become part of member states’ law, and therefore UK law, on 23rd September 2018. However, this doesn’t mean that websites must be accessible by this date, with time being given to allow public sector bodies to make changes to their websites and apps.
The second stage is that websites created after 23rd September 2018 must be compliant by 23rd September 2019. This means that all future websites will be accessible; this is great news for the future!
Websites created before 23rd September 2018 must be compliant of the directive by 23rd September 2020; this is the third stage. This means that past content will be compliant, not just future content. By the time this third stage is passed, all public bodies’ website content should be fully accessible.
Finally, the fourth stage is that mobile apps must be compliant by 23rd September 2021. It may be the case that there aren’t currently many apps for public bodies, but as apps give specific and specialised information to users, the number of apps is likely to increase.
This means that by the end of 2021, all public body websites and apps, past, present and future, will be fully accessible.
What about the future?
Even though this directive applies to public sector bodies, it is important to make sure that all websites are fully accessible. The Equality Act 2010 does state that all websites need to be accessible, but it was not clear to what standard. The EU Directive removes this ambiguity but only applies to public sector bodies. It could be that future laws, whether by the EU or UK governments, could be implemented and give specific requirements for private company websites to be accessible. However, there is a clear business case for making provision for people with disabilities to access goods and services.
Whether you are responsible for a public sector body or a private company, Dig Inclusion are available to talk to you about your website, conduct an accessibility assessment and help you in developing an accessible website.