Government Digital Service (GDS)
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We’re making accessibility clearer and easier

Blog posted by: , Posted on:23 October 2017 – Categories: Accessibility.

The GDS Accessibility team is here to make it easier for departments to build digital services that are accessible for everyone.

We want to ensure that there are no barriers that might prevent anyone from accessing a digital service. This means people who are hard of hearing or have visual, cognitive or motor impairments. But beyond that, it means all users – not just those with permanent disabilities.

You might, for example, be trying to listen to a piece of content in a noisy office. Or trying to read something on a screen which has the sun shining directly onto it. You might have a temporary impairment, such as an ear infection or a broken arm. Or you may, as you grow older, develop a permanent impairment.

The challenges service teams face

Last year we carried out research into how government service teams were approaching accessibility and the challenges they faced.

One of the things we found was that while there were lots of detailed specifications available around accessibility, it was difficult to know how to put them into action when designing and building government services.

This meant that service teams might struggle to understand what they need to do to make their service accessible. This could lead to accessibility being treated as a bolt-on rather than an intrinsic part of service design. And this, in turn, could lead to increased costs if accessibility issues were discovered late in the process, and heightened risks of excluding people from accessing services.

While making sure your service is accessible is part of the Digital Service Standard, we found that the specific requirements weren’t as clear or straightforward as they could be. This meant that teams lacked a clear mandate for dedicating resource and time to delivering against the requirements.

Government has a legal obligation to make its digital services accessible to everyone under the Equality Act 2010. The UK is also signed up to incoming European Union directive on public sector website accessibility. This is due to become law in the next 12 months and will, among other things, require government to report on whether or not their digital services are accessible.

This means it’s vital that we make accessibility as clear and easy as possible for service teams. So we’re updating the accessibility guidance in the Service Manual. We’re making it simpler, clearer and easier to understand.

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