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Website accessibility requirements

21 August 2020 Katie Sixsmith

The government released accessibility requirements for public sector bodies, which came into force for public sector bodies on the 23rd September 2018 and had to be implemented on all existing websites by 23rd September 2020. 

The government have stated that your website or mobile app will meet the newer legal requirements if you:

You must make your website or mobile app more accessible by making it 'perceivable, operable, understandable and robust. You need to include and update an accessibility statement on your website.

Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications)(No.2)
Accessibility Regulations 2018

What are the requirements?

The government wants websites and mobile apps to be as accessible to as many different people as possible so that all content can be digested or adapted by all users. This includes making content accessible to those with impaired vision, motor difficulties, cognitive impairments, learning disabilities and deafness or impaired hearing.

Public sector websites need to be compliant with accessibility settings and need to be ‘perceivable, operable, understandable and robust’ for all users by meeting the international accessibility standard - WCAG 2.1AA.

What does this actually mean?

In practical terms, this means that:

  • All non-text content should have an easily accessible text alternative that serves an equivalent purpose - for example alt text on images that describe what the image is.
  • All links should have a descriptive label - for example "read our latest newsletter" as opposed to "click here".
  • The website content should not be restricted to a specific display orientation - this is easily addressed with a responsive website design.
  • Colour is not the only means of conveying information - so for example, a colourful image isn’t the only way to access a new link - there’s an alt-text option or a text link alongside it. Colours should also meet contrasting requirements and be distinguishable from each other (e.g. not having fluorescent text on a bright background).
  • There should be an option for users who use assisted software such as screen readers to access the content.
  • Content should be easy to read and understand - with easy to use language, bullet points and easily navigable layouts.

This sounds worrying, should I be concerned?

You do need to be aware of the legislation, for your own peace of mind, however as a school or nursery, you are partially exempt from this and we have outlined all you need to do below.

All UK service providers do have a legal obligation to make reasonable adjustments under the Equality Act 2010, however, schools and nurseries are partially exempt from the 2018 Public Sector Bodies (Website and Mobile Applications) (No. 2) Accessibility Regulations 2018.

The following content is exempt from the accessibility regulations: 

  • pre-recorded audio and video published before 23 September 2020
  • live audio and video
  • heritage collections like scanned manuscripts
  • PDFs or other documents published before 23 September 2018 - unless users need them to use a service, for example a form that lets you request school meal preferences
  • maps - but you’ll need to provide essential information in an accessible format like an address
  • third-party content that’s under someone else’s control if you did not pay for it or develop it yourself - for example, social media ‘like’ buttons
  • content on intranets or extranets published before 23 September 2019 (unless you make a major revision after that date)
  • archived websites if they’re not needed for services your organisation provides and they are not updated

The only exception to this rule is the content on your website that people need to use in order to use your services - for example registration forms, forms that let you outline school meal preferences or content relating to information like term dates and uniform.

You would also need to be mindful of PDF attachments - so for example, if you have a PDF form for choosing school meal choices, you need to have an alternative option available for those with accessibility requirements.

What do I need to have in a website accessibility statement? 

Partially exempt organisations do need an accessibility statement - however the government have provided an example accessibility statement which you can amend and customise for your school or MAT website.

Does e4education build accessibility compliant websites?

Yes, we do. All of the websites built onto our latest Content Management System are fully responsive and built in accordance with the WCAG 2.1AA accessibility standards.

All of our websites allow users to access a high visibility version which is designed for screen readers and assistive technology and with our feature rich software and WYSIWYG (what you see if what you get) editor, our customers have the ability to add and edit content, as well as the option to add in alt-text to images, descriptive text links to URL links and tooltips when building forms.

We determine correct brand fonts and colours during the design phase, to ensure that our websites are as visually accessible as possible in terms of colour contrast and text legibility, whilst still meeting their brand requirements.

We also take audio/visual cues very seriously, so if any audio plays automatically for more than 3 seconds on a homepage video, then we give users an option available to pause or stop it. Most mobile browsers now do not autoplay audio content by default - but best practice states there should be an option to play/pause sound if the preference is for audio to be heard.


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