There’s a new EU directive that’ll be shaking up our websites, as digital inclusion becomes a recognised right, not just a privilege.
From NUS Connect June 2018
In September 2018, making your website more accessible became a legal requirement for public sector bodies. The implications could be significant so at Jisc we asked members how ready they were to implement the necessary changes. Only 5% of those questioned said that they were well on their way to compliance and only 8% had begun assessing what changes would be needed. Awareness of the legislation was worryingly low in FE. Our legal, accessibility and governance subject specialists are putting together Jisc support for the sector – and we want your in put* to ensure it meets the particular needs of the sector.
What is the new ‘accessibility requirement’ in UK law?
On 23rd of September 2018 new regulations on the accessibility of websites and mobile applications of public sector bodies came into force in the UK. These regulations implement the EU Directive on web accessibility and require public sector websites and mobile applications to achieve specific accessibility standards. In particular, it requires public sector bodies to take the necessary measures to make their websites and applications accessible by making them perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust — this requirement is referred to in the regulations as “the accessibility requirement”.
The purpose of the regulations is to make public sector websites and mobile apps accessible to all users, including those with disabilities. The regulations are now part of UK law and are likely to remain UK law regardless of our future relationship with the EU. The Minister for the Cabinet Office is obliged to monitor compliance with the accessibility requirement by public sector bodies of their websites and mobile applications. The Equality and Human Rights Commission is the body responsible for enforcement throughout Great Britain and the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland is responsible for enforcement in Northern Ireland.
There is a staged introduction – websites published after 23 September 2018 must be compliant by 23 September 2019. Websites that had been published before 23 September 2018 must be made compliant by 23 September 2020. Apps need to be compliant by 23 June 2021.
Although some organisations and some types of content do not need to meet the new standards, FE and HE institutions are considered to be ‘public sector bodies’ and the impact on their digital delivery is likely to be significant.
John X Kelly. Jisc Subject specialist (technology and the law) .
How can compliance improve ‘Quality’?
Improving digital accessibility may be required by legal requirements and regulation, but – it should be at the heart of our colleges and universities and driven by each institution’s leadership.
Co-chairs forward, Accessible Learning Environments. PolicyConnect / APPG
This legislation has the potential to impact on quality by improving the usability of all digital assets and building accessibility into digital design and procurement. The new accessibility statement requires an effective feedback loop that will ensure the student voice is heard and acted on. Responding to this student entitlement will inevitably involve a range of staff, expertise and knowledge. It is an opportunity to review standards and guidance in order to involve everyone in best practice. Increased accountability and accessibility will lead to both business and cost efficiencies by integrating existing support, maximising independence for learners and getting the best return on digital investments.
To be compliant public sector bodies must have met the accessibility requirements for all new websites, content and apps within a year from the legislation date. This means that digital production and procurement processes must now be re-designed to consider accessibility, by default. The WCAG “POUR” attributes (Perceivable, Operable, Understandable and Robust) must be built in to all website and app design. For many organisations this will mean introducing new standards and definitions into existing design, management and even teaching practices.
Another key element of the legislation is that all websites need an ‘accessibility statement’ that details how the WCAG compliance has, or hasn’t been met and what accessible alternatives are provided or planned. It must include a clear and transparent explanation of the review and monitoring process and enforcement procedure. For some this will mean significant systematic changes to ensure users can report and get problems solved effectively. Many who attended the online briefing felt they would need a working group to join up hitherto disparate roles; marketing and digital teams with disability and additional support staff. Infrastructure teams with assistive technologists, curriculum and content designers.
Quality frameworks for both the HE and FE sectors across the nations specify a student ‘entitlement’ to equality of access and opportunity. They encourage strategic approaches to address the gap in participation and achievement for under-represented groups including students with disabilities. Digital development must reflect these ambitions as well as meet teaching and business objectives and be subject to the same rigorous quality assurance. Organisations should consider the new accessibility requirements in their quality improvement plans and strategic objectives to ensure accessibility is embedded in policy and practice.
Julia Taylor. Jisc Subject specialist (governance)
Support from Jisc
Jisc subject specialists can offer staff awareness training and support in getting the necessary documentation, polices and statements right.
Jisc exists to support the sector in shaping and disseminating good digital practice. The new regulations are a legal requirement but we prefer to see this as an opportunity to support quality and improve inclusion. In our recent Jisc Online briefing New Regulations, New Risks we hoped to provide some additional clarity on the legislation but above all to highlight and encourage members to embed best practice into their digital processes. There is a recording of the online session, slides and notes and an open invitation to join the Jisc Digital Accessibility Regulations mail list – where members can get further information, FAQ’s , practical resources and stay up to date. Most importantly we want to ensure Jisc members contribute ideas and experience to support our conversations with government digital services (GDS) who will be providing the guidance on implementation.
Assistive technology is for everyone. One in five students is using assistive or adaptive technologies, often by choice rather than necessity. Institutions should recognise the value of ‘inclusive for all’ and investigate how digital technologies can support inclusion in learning and assessment.
Jisc Digital Experience insights survey 2018 – Digital lives of learners
What does POUR actually mean to students? Perceivable might mean they can change colours on a website if they are colour blind. Or Operate a webpage from the keyboard if they don’t use a mouse. Are log in instructions easy to Understand? Is there clear information for assistive technology users on the website? if not it isn’t Robust.
Our Jisc accessibility snapshot service is designed to help you evaluate and review your digital platforms to identify where you are at the moment, identify gaps and recommend solutions to help you move forward towards compliance with the new accessibility requirement.
We also offer online training sessions on taking a ‘Snapshot Selfie’ and Developing a digitally inclusive organisation – three online courses exploring (i) data and evidence regarding your accessibility (ii) student entitlement and (iii) Joined up practice and policy.
Jisc also offer a VLE Review and infrastructure review which can highlight accessibility issues.
*The Government Digital Service have undertaken to produce guidelines on the procurement of accessible web platforms. Jisc will continue to develop our support in response but we want to hear from you on the DIGITALACCESSIBILITYREGULATIONS mailing list – so please join soon.
Alistair McNaught and Margaret McKay. Jisc Subject specialists (Accessibility & Inclusion)
EU Directive 2016/2102 on the accessibility of the websites and mobile applications of public sector bodies
The Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No. 2) Accessibility Regulations 2018
Government Digital Service guidance on Meeting Accessibility Standards and understanding WCAG 2.1
Government Digital Service – Public sector website accessibility statements – what you need to know
Jisc Mailing list – Visit https://www.jiscmail.ac.uk/cgi-bin/webadmin?A0=DIGITALACCESSIBILITYREGULATIONS to join.
All Party Parliamentary Group / POLICY CONNECT Report on Accessible Learning Environments
Post on Making the most of the EU web Accessibility directive – Jisc Accessible Organisations Blog
Jisc can support you with choosing the tools you need to ensure compliance. Contact your Jisc account manager