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What  Public Sector Web Accessibility Regulations mean for Colleges and Universities

With little fanfare, the Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) Accessibility Regulations 2018 come into force this week in the UK. What could be one of the most powerful tools for improving web accessibility across a range of public services has slipped in with little information to tell public sector organisations what their obligations will be. While schools and nurseries are exempt, many further and higher education providers can be considered public sector bodies and are covered by this legislation. Some regulations may seem like a paperwork exercise and digital standards and conformance are not the most exciting read.

However, both the UK government and the EU (who have initiated these regulations with a European-wide directive). have been slow to provide details about how this legislation should be implemented. Public sector organisations, including colleges and universities, already have an anticipatory equality duty which includes considering how people with a disability use their apps, websites and digital resources. Hence, these regulations should be seen as a mechanism for evaluating, monitoring and improving digital accessibility, which will be monitored by government to ensure compliance.

In practice, what do these regulations mean for universities and further education colleges?


These regulations will require websites, applications and documents as well as media posted within websites and web services to conform to accessibility standards. Many IT professionals will be familiar with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG2.0/2.1 Level AA) and these new regulations use a standard that is aligned to WCAG.  You can learn more about the specific European standard, EN 301 549 through a series of training videos . Sections 9 (websites), 10 (documents) and 11 (software) contain the technical requirements for meeting the accessibility standards.

Websites and apps will also need to have an accessibility statement. The EU will produce a template for this statement by the end of the 2018 but we already know it will contain information about:


Such information can be very useful for your users who have access needs, so that they are made aware of which aspects of the service are accessible. Furthermore, you may want to think about which websites or applications will need bespoke accessibility statements if your organisation offers several different services.

This means that as a public sector organisation you need to have a process for evaluating websites, apps and documents against accessibility standards and a process for dealing with digital accessibility issues if they arise.

This should be a whole organisation approach, as while some third-party content can be exempt, anything that your institution has paid for, as well as created, may be covered by the regulations.

When do these regulations come into effect?

Very soon!

Next steps?

As these regulations will start to affect any digital content, websites and online services published from this month, you need to think about how you will ensure that they meet the required accessibility standards. Website automated accessibility tools will cover a proportion of the guidelines, but you still need someone to review the output of these testing tools and fix issues.

Digital content and documents are likely to be created by staff and students, so it is important to promote good accessibility practices, such as using styles and templates. There are simple guides on creating accessible documents and presentations on our LexDis Study Strategies blog. Microsoft Office Accessibility checker is easy to use and comes with a range of training videos.

It is also important to think about these regulations strategically as they will affect your web team, content creators, academics and supporting staff. Procurement departments need to ensure that third-party systems are accessible; library staff need to consider the accessibility of digital content they are acquiring and publishing; academic staff need to understand how to make accessible learning materials.

If you want to learn more about Digital Accessibility, why not sign up to our free online course starting 5th October on FutureLearn.