10 steps to comply with new UK accessibility regulations

Abi James AbilityNet consultantUniversities, colleges, councils and other public sector organisations have a requirement to meet new digital accessibility regulations - the first deadline for which was on Monday 23 September 2019.

One of AbilityNet's expert accessibility consultants, Abi James, shares 10 steps you can take now to make sure your organisation and your digital platforms, websites and online documents are ready.

Abi, who has extensive experience of the higher education (HE) sector, also hosted a free webinar on Thursday 26 September 2019: 'Complying with HE Accessibility Regulations in month 1' - watch the recording of our HE update webinar.

Ten steps to follow to address public sector digital accessibility regulations

It may not be possible to complete all these tasks immediately, but it is important to recognise that the regulations will require you to monitor accessibility compliance going forward and these steps can help you create a plan to embed accessibility in the future.

  1. Identify how long you have to comply: The regulations require publicly funded organisations to meet accessibility standards and publish accessibility statements on their digital platforms. When you have to achieve this by depends will vary between platforms, depending on when it was published and who has access to it. Once you know how long you have, you can plan accordingly. Here's an outline of deadlines for when the regulations need to be met:
    By 23rd September 2019: websites published or substantially revised after 23rd September 2018. This includes documents on these sites that were published after 23rd September 2018.
    From 23rd September 2019: new content published on intranets.
    By 23rd September 2020: existing websites still in use for delivering services.
    By 22nd June 2021: mobile apps.
  2. Make time for research: take a look at the Government Digital Service resources produced to help public sector organisations get to grips with the regulations. If you need further advice, contact AbilityNet for our suggestions about how we can help - including our accessibility reviews and training options. 
  3. Discuss the regulations with senior managers: it's important that your senior management team is aware of its responsibilities in meeting the new regulations, and ensuring its key staff are supported to enable them to address the criteria of the new regulations. If you're not sure your team is aware, ask for a chat asap, and send them some key information.
  4. Screenshot of WAVE web accessibility evaluation tool in action on the AbilityNet websiteOutline your basic accessibility issues: perhaps you already know the areas of your site that could do with some attention for accessibility? Free tools such the WAVE checker (see, right, the screenshot of it in action on one of our recent webinars) can help you gain insights into your sites' acccessibility, and feedback from assistive technology users is also very helpful. Also, look at our quick accessibility checklist and note briefly where your website and/or VLE may need adjustments. Doing this will help you in the next step. 
  5. Start writing an Accessibility Statement: one of the first things we would do is to review what information you need to publish in an accessibility statement. If you already have a statement it is important that you review it to make sure it meets the legal requirements. Watch a video recording of our recent webinar about accessibility statements. Ensure you outline on your statement any areas you know you need to improve, and your anticipated schedule for doing this. Also, provide contact information for website users to get in touch about any of the information on your website, or that they need you to provide. (You can sign up to access our online training sessions, including the workshop 'Developing and maintaining an accessibility statement for HE'.)
  6. Access specialist resources and advice: you may find it useful to consult our selection of accessibility resources and tools. They will give you ideas to help you plan the accessibility approach that's right for your organisation. You may be fortunate enough to be able to assign resources and time to a full accessibility programme, but smaller organisations will need to look at the regulations, gather information about aspects they need to address, and prioritise accordingly. (NB, be sure to make your approach and restrictions clear on your accessibility statement.)
  7. Establish your accessibility compliance: It is important you understand what areas of your site already supports accessibility sites and what areas you need to improve. If you are starting from scratch, AbilityNet's Accessibility Review helps establish your accessibility baseline and develop a plan for improving compliance. Accessibility audits can provide you with a full assessment of your compliance once you are confident that your site meets the standards. It's also important to make sure that when updating or creating content for your site it is accessible.  
  8. Create an Accessibility Roadmap: It's important that accessibility becomes embedded across your organisation so that anyone creating, procuring or editing your digital platforms works towards making them more accessible and inclusive. Discuss the findings from your testing with senior managers and key digital stakeholders including website editors, web developers and HR staff. Accessibility isn't just something for which the digital team is responsible, the whole organisation needs to be on board. Ensure accessibility is on the agenda for the coming year and beyond.
  9. Build on progress: Seek regular updates and feedback from your website users, particularly those with different and additional accessibiity needs. Your accessibility statement should be reviewed every year and every time there is a major change to the website. Introduce Accessibility Champions within existing roles in your organisation, to ensure staff are engaged with continuing to meet accessibility needs. 
  10. Join in our regular free online training sessions focused on the regulations. We're hosting regular free webinars, with the last one on 26 September, which was three days after the regulations came into force. Free webinar: Complying with HE Accessibility Regulations in month 1.

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