How UK government enforces digital accessibility compliance

"We have assessed over 360 websites to date. Sampling is done at random across a range of domain names on Public Sector top level names," said Richard Morton, Head of Accessibility at the UK government's Central Digital and Data Office (CDDO) in our webinar earlier this week, Accessibility Insights with the UK Government

CDDO (formerly the Government Digital Service) is responsible for reviewing, monitoring and potentially reporting and enforcing the Public Sector Bodies Accessibility Regulations across Public Sector organisations.

Richard was asked on the webinar by Robin Christopherson MBE, AbilityNet's Head of Digital Inclusion, to provide any insights about CDDO's monitoring process and how many websites and mobile apps the department is reviewing a month.

"It includes things like academia, and the NHS and transport, public transport services. But we are prioritising larger public websites, Public Sector websites... councils, local authorities, central NHS websites, higher education and further education," Richard continued. "It's a mix of simplified tests and detailed tests." 

Watch the webinar playback

You can watch a captioned recording of the session below, and download the transcript. You can also access our year's worth of interviews with individuals who are working to improve digital accessibility in our free Accessibility Insights webinar series

Sharing non-compliance

In the webinar Robin asked Richard if it would be possible to find out which organisations have been audited as part of the CDDO's compliance monitoring efforts.

"We plan to report publicly on these by the end of this year. So sites that have received a report but haven't responded or haven't fixed things properly, that will get publicised. And it's going well. You know, it's certainly raising awareness of the need to do this stuff," Richard explained.

"One of the slight frustrations we get, is we get asked 'What do we need to do? What's the minimum we need to do? What's compliance?'. I'm always trying to encourage people to go beyond compliance, but it can be quite difficult. People have budgets, people have tight timescales - particularly when it came to the major deadlines of 2019 in September and 2020 September for new and existing websites," said Richard.

"Now I'm trying to get people to understand this is not a requirement, it is something we do," Richard continued.

"It is a requirement under the Equality Act to not discriminate. Also a requirement under the Public Sector equality duty for Public Sector Bodies to make sure they are not just doing this stuff, but doing it proactively in a sense that they can't just rely on someone complaining saying 'I can't access your information'. They do have to supply that facility, but can't work on that basis. They have to provide reasonable adjustments and alternative formats and all those sorts of things. The work continues," Richard explained.

Richard Morton and Robin Christopherson looking at computer screens from different, separate monitors

Mobile-first approach

The latest deadline associated with the Public Sector regulations has just passed (23 June 2021). Public Sector regulations have really focused minds, so what, asked Robin, is the Government strategy towards digital going forward?

"The majority of digital interactions with the Public Sector are now through mobile devices. I know I had quotes that it was 60% plus in local authorities. I imagine that figure has gone up in the last year or so as well. It just continues to rise, as more and more people have predominantly mobile devices," said Richard.

"I think the mobile-first approach... is starting to be really important. If you design services in a responsive way that work well on both mobile and devices that really works well there is a blurred distinction between things like tablets and laptops, even though they work in different ways. A laptop is a mobile device but not treated as a mobile device."

"There will be other challenges around other platforms. Obviously people are looking at things like artificial intelligence, and virtual reality situations and things like that... I think there is still a lot of work to be done to deal with the current platforms. Mobile being the biggest one in terms of not just native apps, but responsive apps. There is a lot of work to be done in that area," Richard continued.

 smartphone on table

Need to improve the accessibility of your mobile apps? Send one of your team on AbilityNet's training courses: Accessible Mobile Development and Accessibility testing in mobile apps.

Q&As from the webinar

Richard and Robin invited questions from webinar attendees, and you can find their responses to those questions on the webinar recording page.

Further resources:

Blog: Is your public sector app prepared for the final deadline?

Blog and webinar playback: Key accessibility issues for the public sector

Webinar: Public Sector Bodies Accessibility Regulations: Procurement

Webinars and podcasts: free Accessibility Insights webinar series