Is your public sector app prepared for the final deadline?

In August 2018, a new law was passed that means that public sector apps and websites will need to meet accessibility standards so that people who use assistive technology or have additional needs can easily access services and information. 

Nearing the final deadline

The Public Sector Bodies Accessibility Regulations (PSBAR) did not require organisations to achieve full compliance all in one go. They published the following timeline within which websites, downloadable documents (such as PDFs) and mobile apps needed to comply with the new regulations:

  • 23rd September 2019: websites published or substantially revised after 23rd September 2018. 
  • 23rd September 2019: new content published on intranets.
  • 23rd September 2020: existing websites still in use for delivering services.
  • And by 22nd June 2021: mobile apps.

That’s right – all but the final deadline has passed and it’s now the turn of mobile apps to be made compliant by this June.

Man sitting at desk with laptop and looking at mobile phone

Are you included in this legislation?

The regulations are not completely clear about what constitutes “public sector,” but if you receive public funding then you are likely to be required to comply with these regulations.

Non-government organisations like charities (unless they provide services that are essential to the public or aimed at disabled people), schools or nurseries are exempt from the regulations - except for the content the public need to use their services, and public sector broadcasters and their subsidiaries.

The regulations are made up of 3 parts:

  1. Websites, apps and documents hosted on websites must comply with accessibility standards. There is a timeline (above) for when new and existing websites and mobile apps must comply.
  2. Public sector organisations must publish an accessibility statement on their websites and in their apps to inform visitors about their accessibility.
  3. The Government is required to monitor if public sector apps and websites are meeting these regulations by checking accessibility statements and the accessibility of a sample of apps and websites.

Accessibility standards

The regulations state that websites, apps and documents meet a European standard called EN 301 549, which covers all types of technology including documents, websites, mobile apps and software.

What are the exemptions?

Some content in your app may remain exempt, including:

  • Live audio and video and pre-recorded audio and video published before 23 September 2020.
  • Maps - although if the map helps users find a service, you must provide directions another way.
  • Third party content that isn’t under the organisation's control or hasn’t been purchased (e.g. social media ‘like’ buttons).

Find further details on the Government Digital Service website

Disproportionate burden

Organisations can exempt content or aspects of their apps from the regulations if they assess that this would cause a disproportionate burden to address the accessibility issue. This assessment must consider the benefits to disabled users of meeting the standards, the cost of meeting the standards and how the particular content or app element is used by disabled people. It should also consider your organisation’s size and resources.

This rationale (and how disabled visitors can acquire an accessible alternative) must be published in the accessibility statement.

Accessibility statements

Organisations are required to publish accessibility statements on their apps and websites explaining which parts of the content are not accessible, and, where appropriate, provide links to accessible alternatives.

It must also include contact information to raise any accessibility issues and details of the government’s process for escalating accessibility complaints to its monitoring and enforcement bodies.

What can I do next?

We have some great resources to get you started: