Reminder: The Accessibility Regulations for Public Sector Body Websites and Mobile Apps
by Rebecca Hull
Invicta Law’s Rebecca Hull looks at the Public Sector Bodies Accessibility Regulations, what they mean for public sector websites and apps and the approaching app deadline of 23 June 2021.
On 23 September 2018, the Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No. 2) Accessibility Regulations 2018 (“the Regulations”) came into force. The Regulations aim to ensure public sector websites and apps are made accessible to all users, particularly the disabled.
The Regulations require websites and apps of public sector bodies to meet specified accessibility standards. This means a website or app must be ‘perceivable, operable, understandable and robust’ for all users. This can be achieved by ensuring websites and apps meet the web content accessibility guidelines.
Whilst the deadlines for public sector websites to comply with the Regulations have passed, public bodies have until 23 June 2021 to ensure that their mobile apps are accessible.
Who do the Regulations apply to?
All public bodies must comply with the Regulations, unless they are exempt.
Under the Regulations, public bodies include:
- Central government and local government organisations.
- Some charities and other non-governmental organisations.
If, however an organisation to which the Regulations applies believes the impact of fully meeting the requirements is too much for their organisation to reasonably comply with, then under the Regulations this is referred to as a ‘disproportionate burden’. If a public body intends to declare a ‘disproportionate burden,’ then it must carry out an assessment weighing up the burden and benefits of making their website accessible.
Public sector bodies to which the Regulations apply must also prepare an accessibility statement, which explains how accessible the website or app is. The accessibility statement must clearly state the level of accessibility across the website or app and make barriers clear. The statement must also inform users of any alternative access routes and how they can contact the website owner to report any issues they may identify.
Deadlines to comply
A new public sector website, created on or after 23 September 2018, was required to comply with the Regulations by 23 September 2019.
An existing website, which was published before 23 September 2018, had until 23 September 2020 to comply with the Regulations.
If you have not done so already you need to ensure that any mobile apps are accessible, in accordance with the Regulations, by 23 June 2021.
The Government Digital Service will be responsible for monitoring the compliance of public sector bodies and the Regulations will be enforced by the Equality and Human Rights Commission. When there has been a failure to provide information in an accessible format, individuals have the right to complain to the enforcement bodies.
Failure to comply with the accessibility requirements will be treated as a failure to make reasonable adjustments (as per the relevant sections of the Equality Act 2010 and the Disability Discrimination Act 1995), which may result in claims for discrimination.
The Minister of the Cabinet Office may also undertake an assessment into whether the requirements on accessibility statements have been met. This may result in requests for further information, the public body being notified of any non-compliance and the publication of the non-compliant organisation’s name, which would be potentially harmful to the public authority’s reputation.
Key take away
Public sector bodies should ensure they are compliant with the Regulations by making their mobile apps accessible by 23 June 2021.
Invicta Law’s Corporate and Commercial team can assist with advice in respect of compliance for public sector bodies with the Regulations, or with other legislation to which public bodies are subject. We deliver high quality commercial legal advice, at competitive rates, while remaining compliant and minimising risk.
The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute, professional legal advice. Invicta Law Limited cannot accept responsibility for any loss arising as a result of acts taken by the reader in respect of this article.