The new regulations state that websites and mobile applications must achieve the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) V2.1 level AA compliance and publish a compliant accessibility statement.
Why is accessibility important?
In Northern Ireland a significant number of citizens have complex accessibility needs:
- Around 1 in 5 people are living with disability (defined as physical, learning, sensory, hidden disabilities and mental health disabilities);
- 21.7% of 16-64 years olds in Northern Ireland have reported living with a long-term illness and disability;
- This figure jumps to 46% when looking at the population over state pension age (65);
- Over 16% of the population is aged over 65 (this figure is set to rise to 25% by 2028).
Working in collaboration with communications colleagues across departments, Enterprise Digital Development (EDD) conducted a series of Accessibility Audits of over 30 NICS and ALB websites. These audits examined a subset of pages from each business areas websites and evaluated how effectively the content measured up to the new government accessibility regulations.
This process identified a list of technical, design and content issues that needed to be corrected ln each website. It also provided valuable lessons to our internal teams about how our websites are designed, how the content is formatted and presented and most important of all, how we can improve our websites and make them more accessible in the future.
The concept of accessibility does not just apply to users with disabilities, - all users of online government services will have different needs at different times and in different circumstances. Accessibility is about making sure our online services can be used by as many people as possible.
Thanks to recent efforts, the accessibility of the DoF website and content has been improved considerably and the process does not end there. The NICS / Department of Finance is committed to continuously improving the accessibility of our websites and this will be embedded in our teams’ service improvement plans going forward.
The full documentation of the Public Sector Bodies Accessibility Regulations 2018 is available here.