What is website accessibility?
Website accessibility refers to websites being designed so that everyone can use them as easily as possible. This can mean they are more accommodating of environmental factors such as poor internet connection, using a laptop in sunlight, or viewing a website on a television screen. Website accessibility also explicitly refers to ensuring that your website is optimised for those with disabilities as it is important that websites are developed to connect with the largest possible audience without exclusion.
The UK Government estimates that 20% of the population have a disability which can be classed as: auditory, cognitive, neurological, physical, speech, or visual. For example, it is estimated that 4.5% of the population in Great Britain is colour blind, this equates to about 3 million people. By designing websites that don't rely solely on colour to convey information we can ensure that people with visual conditions have access.
The right thing to do
Every organisation should strive to have an accessible website as it's the right thing to do. If you need more persuasion of this, consider how it contributes to CSR, inclusion and diversity policies, not to mention portraying your brand as simply socially considerate. The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) and the Equality Act 2010 (EQA) aim to ensure that everyone has equal access to websites and that people are not discriminated against based on a disability so it's actually a requirement to ensure that your website offers a level of accessibility.
If your organisation provides a public service then the Government has legislation in place making it a legal requirement as well. The Public Sector Accessibility Regulations 2018 state that all public sector bodies must take reasonable steps to ensure their websites and apps are accessible to WCAG Level AA. Public sector bodies in the UK must abide by the regulations that came into force in September 2018 with existing websites needing to be compliant by 23 September 2020.
What do I need to do?
If you created a new public sector website on or after 23 September 2018, you need to meet accessibility standards and should have published an accessibility statement (which is regularly updated) by 23 September 2019. Most existing websites that were published before 23 September 2018 need to comply with the accessibility regulations by 23 September 2020.
- Start by finding out what changes need to be made to make your website or app accessible.
- You don’t have to fix everything at once, establish what’s reasonable to fix now, and when you’ll make the remaining changes.
- State what your plans are in your accessibility statement to make things as clear as possible for people using your website or app.