There are many changes ahead for anyone who creates or manages any web content for a public sector organisation. Details are here and there is lots of information, advice and support from the government.
Important dates coming up
|What’s Covered||Deadline to comply with the regulations|
|New public sector websites (published on or after 23 September 2018)||by 23 September 2019|
|All other public sector websites||by 23 September 2020|
|Public sector mobile applications||by 23 September 2021|
With effect from the 23 of September 2019 all new public sector websites will need to do two things. They need to:
- meet accessibility standards so that a public facing site is ‘perceivable, operable, understandable and robust (POUR). Essentially this means that all users can:
- read, see or be able to access the content (Perceive),
- navigate their way round the site and if necessary interact in a way that is meaningful for them, (Operable)
- make sense of and use the content, (Understandable)
- visit the site for any length of time using a variety of browsers or assistive technology so that navigation, interactivity or page refresh is timely and efficient. (Robust)
- publish an accessibility statement that details which parts of your online offer are accessible and importantly those that are not. It needs to detail what areas are inaccessible and in what way. It should provide contact details for requesting information in an alternative format. It needs to detail which of the WCAG 2.1 AA accessibility criteria that the content is not meeting.
Government advice includes a sample accessibility statement.
There are a number of automated accessibility testing sites that can be used. One of the easiest is the Wave Web Accessibility tool. An automated system is a great starting point but it cannot provide information on the ease with which a site meets all four POUR criteria.
A crucial aspect to ensuring that your site is actually allowing the largest number of people to get to your content is to have it tested by users with a variety of disabilities or ways of accessing information. They will be able to tell you in for example that:
- you have long and convoluted sentences, that use the passive tense,
- you may even have grammatical or spelling errors
- you have made assumptions about the existing knowledge of your readers.
All of these can put a reader off or in some cases prevent them from understanding your message. Real readers can also tell you if they can find certain pieces of information easily and detail the reasons that might prevent them from doing so. They can provide answers to some simple questions.
- Are you using the same phrase or key words to refer to important ideas?
- Is the navigation to all of your site pages simple, with well defined links and menus?
- Is the information laid out in a way that is uncluttered and easy to read?
- Do any graphics or images provide additional information that is not in the text? How are you going to deliver this information to a reader with limited vision? There is an excellent piece on WebAim on the use of Alternative text and how it should be used.
All these aspects are in addition to the ‘straight forward’ accessibility issues of providing information that is screen reader accessible or ensuring that there is sufficient contrast on the page.
A focus solely on the WCAG criteria will not address all four of the POUR responsibilities. It is real users who will be able to tell you that they can or importantly cannot find the page or section that they want. This powerful information will tell you whether your site is gaining as much traffic as you hope and that you are providing an accessible and usable experience for the largest number of users.
We have access to a team of users who are experienced at web access testing. We use young and old users who have a variety of sight impairments as well as some with physical and learning difficulties. We can plan either limited or more comprehensive testing programmes depending on your requirements.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on how we can help you make your site as accessible and usable as possible.