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As of the 23rd of September 2020, it will be a legal requirement for public sector bodies to ensure their websites meet the website and mobile app accessibility regulations.

With this date fast approaching, we wanted to help you understand what accessibility means from a digital perspective and what these changes might look like for your website or app.

What is web accessibility?

Making a website or mobile app more accessible means making it as easy to use for as many people as possible.

According to Scope’s disability facts and figures, at least 1 in 5 people in the UK have a long-term illness, impairment or disability (as well as many more with a temporary disability), which can have a huge effect on how people use your product or service.

There are five types of disabilities: visual, auditory, cognitive (learning and neurological), motor/physical, and speech disability. If you don’t have a disability or impairment yourself, you likely know someone who does.

Reaching an AA standard means your website or app is usable by all.

What do A, AA & AAA actually mean?

When it comes to web accessibility, there are three levels of conformance: A, AA and AAA, with one A for minimum effort, and three As for maximum effort.

AA will be the new minimum standard for all public sector bodies, speaking to our resident accessibility guru Tegan, this is what she had to say on level AA:

“I think Level AA is just right – it’s flexible enough to allow brand personality and uniqueness, but featured enough that people with disabilities or impairments can access what they need.”

This will cover everything from UX (user experience) and design to the content you upload, making sure everything is clear and simple enough that most people won’t need to adapt it while supporting those who do need to.

How having an AA compliant website will benefit you

There are overwhelming benefits to the disabled community when it comes to making your website accessible but it can also be helpful for you and your business too.

Accessible websites work better for everyone, they are clear and easy to understand, they are often faster, simpler to use and appear higher in search engine rankings (aka great for SEO!) as you’ll be thinking of the finer details such as alternative text on your images.

There is no downside to having a website or app that is accessible by the entire population, it’s simply opening more doors for your customers.

How to meet an AA standard?

It might seem overwhelming and you might fear there are a lot of changes to be made with your website or app. With this in mind, it’s better to start with the basics and chip away in small chunks.

A good place to start are the four principles of accessibility criteria, these are:

  • Perceivable – Information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive. This means making content available and digestible in multiple forms, making it easy to see and hear regardless of the user’s level of ability.
  • Operable – User interface components and navigation must be operable. This means that users must be able to operate the interface (the interface cannot require interaction that a user cannot perform)
  • Understandable – Information and the operation of user interface must be understandable. This means that users must be able to understand the information as well as the operation of the user interface (the content or operation cannot be beyond their understanding), so just keep it simple.
  • Robust – Content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies. This means that users must be able to access the content as technologies advance (as technologies and user agents evolve, the content should remain accessible)

For a full and detailed list of how to meet the WCAG AA standards, you can find everything broken down neatly in this reference guide here.

When must the changes be made by?

Although the deadline is the 23rd of September 2020, things are slightly different depending on if you have an old or a new website.

This information is taken from the website:

New Websites:

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 by 23 September 2019. You need to review and update your statement regularly.

Existing Websites:

Most existing websites that were published before 23 September 2018 need to comply with the accessibility regulations by 23 September 2020.

Intranets and extranets need to comply from when there are significant changes to them.

You might need to do things earlier than 23 September 2020 if you:

  • make substantial changes to the design or code
  • create new features
  • create a subdomain

You can read more on the government legislation here.

An agency or external party built our website, whose responsibility is it?

Yours! Whoever built your website (or even a different provider) will be able to help you implement the changes, but ultimately, the instruction must come from you. You won’t be expected to know HOW to do the changes that need to be made, but you may need to understand why so you can explain exactly what you need.

Whenever new rules are enforced, it can feel daunting but the changes that need to be made are there to benefit everyone (remember, that includes you and your business!).

If you’d like some help from our expert team or would like us to perform an Accessibility Audit for your website, get in touch below, we’d love to hear from you!

How can we help?