The public sector bodies accessibility regulations (PSBAR) come into full effect on 23 September 2020, when all public sector websites must be compliant. Here’s what you need to do to get ready.
Accessibility of digital resources and web-based applications has been at the forefront of conversation recently, partly due to the rapid shift to online delivery. Alongside ensuring that all students have access to the online systems and digital resources that they need, there’s also a strong legal driver around improving accessibility.
“Digital accessibility in further and higher education is key to the success of our disabled students, with the ongoing COVID-19 crisis highlighting the importance of ensuring all students can access educational resources virtually.
We know that disabled and non-disabled students alike benefit from inclusive practices, such as offering alternative formats, and with the deadline for meeting the accessibility standard just a few weeks away, it is vital that colleges and universities make this a priority in their preparations for the new academic year.”
Lord Shinkwin, co-chair for the all-party parliamentary group for assistive technology (APPGAT)
The public sector bodies accessibility regulations (PSBAR) come into full effect on 23 September 2020, and all public sector websites must be compliant. Websites, systems and digital resources need to be audited, an accessibility statement published, and remediation plans created.
As time is tight, it might not be possible to remediate all systems and resources. However, a good start can be made by auditing systems, and publishing an accessibility statement to show that the organisation cares about accessibility and is taking appropriate actions to work towards full compliance.
Auditing systems and preparing a statement
A key part of compliance with the regulations is publishing an accessibility statement. The Government Digital Service (GDS) has a helpful template for statements as well as a sample statement, and as this is a legal requirement, guidance should be followed carefully.
In order to write a statement, audits must be done of websites, web applications (including virtual learning environments and other third-party systems or applications), and other internally created resources or third-party resources.
There are a variety of ways to undertake an audit, including contracting in an auditing service. GDS provides guidance on getting an accessibility audit and how to undertake some internal checks. It has also published guidance on undertaking a detailed audit, as well as doing a basic accessibility check if you cannot do a detailed one.
Accessibility will now be monitored
GDS is now monitoring public sector bodies’ compliance with the digital accessibility regulations. In the GDS guidance on how the accessibility regulations will be monitored and enforced it is noted that ‘GDS can ask for information and request access to intranets, extranets or any public sector website’.
"Monitoring has started on new websites, and all public websites need to be accessible and publish an accessibility statement by 23 September.
It's really important that there is a statement so users know if they will encounter any accessibility issues with your site, and that there is contact information for the public to be able to raise any problems they find."
Chris Heathcote, product manager for accessibility monitoring at GDS
Need some inspiration?
There are some great examples of Jisc members taking a whole-organisation approach to digital accessibility, such as this statement by the University of Kent. Or you might feel inspired by this granular accessibility statement published by the University of Glasgow.
The digital accessibility working group LexDis accessibility toolkit also provides guidance on how to undertake quick accessibility checks and more detailed auditing for digital accessibility.