The Public Sector bodies (websites and mobile applications) (no. 2) accessibility regulations 2018
With the 23 September 2020 deadline fast approaching, public sector bodies have limited time to comply with the Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No.2) Accessibility Regulations 2018 (the Regulations) and ensure their websites are appropriately accessible.
This deadline only applies to websites published prior to 23 September 2018 and mobile applications do not have to be compliant until 23 June 2021. Further, all new websites and mobile applications that 'go live' from 23 September 2019 and 23 June 2021 respectively, must adhere to the Regulations prior to publication and therefore the Regulations will be relevant for the foreseeable future.
Who do these Regulations apply to?
The Regulations apply to all "bodies governed by public law" subject to a few exceptions. These exceptions include:
- Non-governmental organisations that do not:
a. receive primary finance through public funding
b. provide essential public services
c. provide services which are specifically aimed at the disabled
- Public service broadcasters
The reality is, these Regulations are broad ranging and will encompass almost all entities linked to central government and/or any local authorities, including but not limited to:
- teckal companies
- registered providers
- charities (e.g. those aimed at the disabled or which are primarily publicly funded)
The services published on the website(s) or mobile application(s) (see below) alongside the source of funding of the relevant body are the key factors which will determine whether the Regulations apply. If the position is ambiguous, we would advise following the Regulations as any resulting changes will only improve each website or mobile application's functionality, broadening its accessibility.
What websites and/or mobile applications do these Regulations apply to?
The Regulations apply to both intranet/extranet websites and mobile software designed and developed for use by the general public (excluding mobile operating systems and hardware). A list of additional exclusions are set out at Regulation 3(2) and include but are not limited to online maps and mapping services; third-party content that is neither funded nor developed by, nor under the control of, public sector bodies; and archives.
What are the requirements of the Regulations?
Accessibility is the key requirement and this entails making sure that a website or mobile application is perceivable, operable, understandable and robust to its users. This is a subjective assessment, however, the Government has provided advice and guidance which can be found at https://accessibility.campaign.gov.uk/. Some examples of modifications which comply with the Regulations include making information available in large print, as audio recordings or in alternative colours.
In order to illustrate compliance with the Regulations, it is necessary to publish an accessibility statement made available on the relevant website or mobile application. Such statement must highlight what aspects of the website or mobile application are not accessible and why; any alternative methods of accessibility which have been employed; and a point of contact to deal with any ensuing issues.
Can anything be done if the Regulations are considered to be too onerous?
From a practical perspective, if a public body considers that the impact of meeting the requirements under the Regulations is disproportionate to its activities, it is possible to declare this. An assessment must be undertaken in order to weigh up the associated costs of complying with the Regulations against the size and nature of the organisation and the benefit of the website and/or mobile application to disabled users. If the assessment concludes that compliance with the Regulations would be a disproportionate burden on the public body, a reduced number of adjustments to any website and/or mobile application may be required, evidenced through a declaration.
It should always be borne in mind that such a declaration would not absolve a public body from all of its requirements under the Regulations and the corresponding assessment would need to be revisited regularly. The consequence of getting this declaration/assessment wrong could result in public embarrassment, formal investigations and/or even court action.
As the deadline approaches, it is best to consider your obligations under the Regulations sooner rather than later. For more information in relation to these Regulations and their applicability in a particular case, please do not hesitate to contact Matt Whelan, Louis Sebastian or Amardeep Gill.