Police praised in updated UK Accessibility Statements research

"I've seen organisations say they will specifically not publish a statement... which they may want to reconsider, given the legal obligations!" says George Rhodes, sharing examples he uncovered in the second phase of his research into UK Accessibility Statements.

You may recall our recent coverage of George Rhodes' research into the prevalence and effectiveness of Accessibility Statements in the UK, published early in October 2019.

The topline results in the first iteration of his research project during late August and early September revealed that only 23 out of the 601 public sector websites tested have a 'compliant Accessibility Statement' - that's less than 4%. Compliance relates to the introduction of the new Public Sector Bodies Accessibility Regulations, that came into force on 23 September 2019.

Leading the research project into accessibility statements in the UK, George, formerly of Kent County Council (and now newly in position at the Home Office) has now announced further research and fresh findings about the state of UK public sector digital accessibility statements.

What's new in the findings?

Phase two of research can be found in full on the LexDis website, and was compiled between the 5th and 13th October. George looked at 1,441 public sector websites including local governments, police, fire and rescue services, and universities, and now also further education colleges, and "all NHS organisations that I could find," he says.

Approximately 800 additional sites from the original 601 have now been tested as part of George's research. He reports some quite interesting results... 

Positive results for police

Image of UK police officers on road"We're now up to 109 compliant statements - which is about 7.6% of the overall total tested. We've seen a comparative drop in the number of good and partial attempt statements. A little increase in the number of poor statements. So now we're up to 669 poor attempts, and 487 organisations with no statements whatsoever - which makes up about a third of all statements."

"But, we have seen some really good things come out of this as well. Since the first deadline occured, local government particularly has jumped from 16 to 44 compliant statements, so people are starting to get the message." 

And where police forces are now moving towards a national standard template for police forces, they have a prepared accessibility statement. "They've moved from no compliant police forces prior to the deadline, to 15 - within a couple of weeks afterwards. So, that's really good to see. So they're up to 15 out of 48 police forces I looked at. So they've made a really massive jump," George says.

NHS work to be done

Of the 452 NHS organisations tested in this second phase of the research, George uncovered the following results:

  • Compliant Statements: 14
  • Good Attempt: 2
  • Partial Statements: 42
  • Poor Attempt: 228
  • No Statements: 166

More promotion 

"But overall, we are moving in the correct direction - people are starting to get the message. I think there's a lot of promotional work that needs to be done in getting people to understand what they need to do to meet regulatory compliance," George says.

"I would advise people to really make sure that they're tailoring the Government Digital Service (GDS) Sample Accessibility Statement to their needs, rather than just copying and pasting it," George suggests. He also shares some 'Love to hate' examples from his accessible statements research:

  • Large images of text containing their contact info in about 15 different languages - as one vast image of poor quality and no alt text.
  • Very outdated NHS sector statements that reference the browser Netscape - "Netscape having died off around 2008," says George. 
  • Statements listed as being updated in 2013, but with known issues outlined - with those issues seemingly still present six years later. 
  • Statements which still have the 'insert email address here' section to say how to contact them - "so, really not taking much care about this quite important information that they're trying to provide," says George.

Hot topics for Higher Education at TechSharePro 2019

TechSharePro logoGeorge will be joining other experts in the field of higher education at the sold-out TechShare Pro conference on 20-21 November. Topics George expects to arise within his panel include discussions around substantial revision of websites and how that affects timelines to meet the regulations - particularly for virtual learning environments (VLEs). Disproportionate burden and prioritisation for institutions with particularly large web estates is another topic the panel is likely to cover.

"I'd like to discuss how the new accessibility regulations are intermingling with existing copyright law... particularly when we're discussing things such as eBook libraries and other subscription to content services."

About George's research

If you have any questions about achieving compliance with the new regulations, please contact the Government Digital Service (GDS) and AbilityNet also has resources for higher education and further education institutions.

Further resources