Accessibility requirements guidance

The new accessibility rules (Public Sector Accessibility Regulations 2018) mean that:

  • a site must be accessible to disabled people to a standard called Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) level AA
  • you must publish an accessibility statement on the site using a legal standard template

The deadline for meeting the rules passed in September 2020.

The Government Digital Service (GDS) will be auditing a subset of Defra websites in 2021. If they find accessibility problems, they will ask that they are fixed within 12 weeks. If a fix is not made, the site will be referred to the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the website address will be identified as failing on a page provided by GDS.

What you need to do

Sites that will carry on working as-is for at least the next 12 months:

  1. Do the work to create an accessibility statement. To do this you will need to test the accessibility of the site.
  2. You then need to either fix the problems you find or say when you plan to fix them (a ‘roadmap’).
  3. Publish the accessibility statement on your site. This is now overdue.

Sites that you plan to decommission, move to another site or re-build in the next 12 months:

  1. Publish the accessibility statement on your site. This will explain why you are not fixing the site now.
  2. If you are re-building, make sure that the team responsible, or the contractors, understand the accessibility requirements.

Getting help and advice

The GDS accessibility advice is short and quite readable. It should help you understand the basics about accessibility requirements.

Making online public services accessible 

Understanding accessibility requirements for public sector bodies

Sample accessibility statement

You can also ask for advice from the Defra Website Compliance Team. Use the feedback form link in the email you received to request assistance.


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