How to Write an Accessibility Statement

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How to Write an Accessibility Statement

An accessibility statement is a formal declaration or document published by organisations to express their commitment to making their website or mobile app accessible to all users, including those with disabilities.

It typically outlines the accessibility features of a digital service, identifies any potential barriers users might face and offers contact information for reporting accessibility issues or seeking further assistance.

In summary, having an accessibility statement can build trust, improve user experience and, ultimately, show your users that you care about accessibility and about them.

While accessibility statements are generally advised as a best practice for all organisations, international accessibility regulations, like the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) specifically require the inclusion of an accessibility statement to ensure legal compliance.

So, what does this mean for you and, more importantly, how do you write an effective accessibility statement for your website or mobile app?

Do I Need to Write an Accessibility Statement?

In the UK, all service providers are legally required to ensure that their services, both physical and digital, are accessible to people with disabilities.

Additionally, public sector organisations are obligated to publish accessibility statements according to Regulation 8 in the Public Sector Bodies Accessibility Regulations (PSBAR) 2018.

Public bodies are publicly funded organisations providing a public or government service, including:

  • Local authorities.
  • Courts.
  • Police departments.
  • NHS hospitals.
  • Universities.
  • Schools.
  • Libraries.

While these regulations do not explicitly mention the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), aligning with WCAG 2.2 at Level AA standards ensures compliance with UK accessibility legislation. You can learn more about WCAG 2.2 accessibility standards in this blog.

Private companies and other entities not covered by PSBAR are not legally required to publish accessibility statements. Despite this, they may choose to do so voluntarily to align with WCAG standards and demonstrate their commitment to inclusivity.

What Should an Accessibility Statement Include?

Before your service enters public beta, conducting an accessibility audit is crucial to ensure compliance with WCAG 2.2 Level AA standards. The results of this audit will also provide the necessary information to write your accessibility statement with. 

In accordance with UK legislation, an accessibility statement must:

  • Include an explanation of any inaccessible features and the reasons behind them.
  • Outline any accessible alternatives available.
  • Provide a method of contact for reporting issues or requesting information.
  • Outline the enforcement procedure.

We recommend that you use the model accessibility statement on GOV.UK to make sure you meet legal requirements.

Most readers of your statement will not be accessibility experts, so it is important to use plain language that everyone can understand. This will also make it easier for users with a disability to understand how they can best use your website or mobile app.

Here is a breakdown of what the accessibility statement should contain, at a minimum, as defined by the UK Government:

Accessibility Statement

This introductory section outlines your organisation’s commitment to ensuring accessibility for your website or mobile app in compliance with the Public Sector Bodies Accessibility Regulations 2018.

It specifies the scope of the accessibility statement, indicating which website or mobile app it applies to.

Compliance Status

This section indicates the compliance status of your website or mobile app with the WCAG 2.2 AA standard. It is important to note that the level of compliance refers to your website or mobile app as a whole and does not refer to individual sections or web pages. It offers three options:

  • Full Compliance – You fully meet all requirements of the technical specification without exceptions.
  • Partial Compliance – Most requirements of the technical specification are met, but with some exceptions.
  • Non-Compliance – Most requirements of the technical specification are not met. This signifies that you do not comply with the WCAG 2.2 AA standard.

Non-Accessible Content

This section addresses any non-accessible content within your website or mobile app. If there are elements that you cannot make accessible, it is important to provide an overview of what content is inaccessible, reasons for its inaccessibility and accessible alternatives where applicable.

There are three possible reasons for non-accessibility:

  • Non-Compliance – Specific content or sections that fail to meet the requirements of relevant accessibility regulations. For example, “Some images do not contain alternative text to describe the image, which does not meet WCAG version 2.1 AA – 1.1.1 Non-text Content.”
  • Disproportionate Burden – Sections, content or functions that, if improved for accessibility, would exceed the budget for the year. Such enhancements would also fail to significantly improve accessibility for disabled users. It is important to note that this exemption is temporary.
  • Out of Scope – Non-accessible content or sections that fall outside the scope of accessibility regulations. This could include content not covered by the regulations or deemed exempt for other reasons. For instance, third-party applications embedded within a website, like social media feeds or external booking systems, may fall under this category if you lack the authority to modify or improve their accessibility.

Preparation of The Accessibility Statement

This section provides key details about the date the statement was prepared and the method used to prepare the statement – whether it was a self-assessment by your organisation or conducted by a third party. 

Additionally, it includes the date that the statement was last reviewed and the date of the last accessibility test for your website or mobile app, regardless of whether changes were made to the statement.

Feedback and Contact Information

Visitors to your site might require alternative formats to access information or need to report inaccessible areas that you may not be aware of.

This section provides clear contact information for submitting requests and reaching out to the individual or team responsible for accessibility within your organisation. The designated contact should have the authority to implement these modifications or ensure their inclusion in the development backlog. You may also indicate an approximate response time so individuals know when to expect a reply.

Enforcement Procedure

In the UK (excluding Northern Ireland), The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) is responsible for enforcing accessibility regulations. Their designated public body, The Equality Advisory and Support Service (EASS), oversees organisations’ compliance with accessibility requirements.

This section includes a link to the EASS, enabling dissatisfied users to contact them regarding your handling of their complaint.

Where do I Publish My Accessibility Statement?

Your accessibility statement should be easy to find. It should be prominently placed on the homepage of your website or made available on every page of the website, such as in the footer.

For mobile apps, your statement should be published on the website of the public sector body that developed your app, or alongside other information available when downloading the app.

To keep your accessibility statement accurate and relevant, remember to review and update your statement regularly – at least once a year – and particularly after any significant changes to your service’s accessibility.

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