New legislation coming into force will mean that, as early as 2020, all public-sector organisations, including all councils will need to make sure that their digital services and online information are accessible for disabled people.
In October 2016, an EU Directive came in which states all public-sector bodies must have accessible digital services by 2020. This means that they can be used by people with disabilities and additional needs, for example using screen readers or other assistive technology. Brexit has meant that this Directive is now being transferred into UK law and will come into effect in its first phase in 2020. The move will ensure that the 20% of people in the UK who have a limiting illness or disability will be able to access public sector websites, software and mobile applications.
It aims to do this by cracking down on the councils, colleges, and other public-sector organisations that currently have no accessible digital provisions. This includes individuals with low or no vision using screen reading software, deaf people requiring subtitles or sign language interpretations, people with limited mobility using voice commands or specialist keyboards and those with learning difficulties who find navigating complex services challenging.
East Midlands-based digital agency HeX Productions, who are making a name for themselves as web accessibility advocates, are currently in ongoing consultation with the government and other businesses and organisations to ensure that the legislation is fairly implemented for everyone. The firm will continue to consult until this comes into force in September and will provide support with the governance by providing training and consultation to those business across the UK that require support.
Newly appointed Director of Accessibility at HeX Productions, Zara Gemmell, commented: “It’s great that the government have noticed the shortfall in public sector services that are accessible to disabled people. This piece of legislation marks a turning point for those with access needs and those in the public sector who are not currently taking accessibility as seriously as they should.”
“The UK’s public sector will need to make websites and other digital services accessible by September 2020 or risk the potential PR nightmare of being named and shamed in public. This legislation could also pave the way for stricter requirements for all businesses in the coming years.”
The new law will be an interpretation of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines that have been developed by the World Wide Web Consortium, which details what is and what isn’t accessible.