What UK accessibility law means for your business

What UK accessibility law means for your business

Digital accessibility, vital for everyday interactions via mobile phones or computers, should be at the heart of any organisation’s strategy, guided by UK accessibility laws. With 18.7% of females and 16.5% of males in England reported as disabled, it’s increasingly essential for businesses to ensure their online content and websites are accessible. This not only meets legal obligations but also supports equity, making services available to a broader audience.

The United Kingdom’s accessibility regulations framework indicates its commitment to meeting accessibility requirements for people with disabilities. This is demonstrated through the following pieces of UK accessibility legislation:

1. The Equality Act 2010

2. The Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) Accessibility Regulations 2018

Let’s examine UK accessibility laws in more detail to understand the UK’s commitment to digital accessibility:

What is the disability law in the UK?

Accessible technology regulations are mainly governed by specific UK law. In the UK, the Equality Act 2010 is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)’s equivalent, mandating accessibility requirements for disabled individuals, ensuring fair access to jobs, education, and transport. Accessibility law and requirements in the UK are as follows:

The Equality Act 2010 explained

The Equality Act 2010, which replaced the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA), explicitly requires both the public and private sectors to accommodate disabled individuals within the digital sphere. The law does not provide technical guidelines or standards like WCAG, a non-governmental international standard widely recognized in many countries including the US, or EN 301 549, the European Union’s standard. 

The Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) Accessibility Regulations 2018 explained

In 2018, the United Kingdom implemented the Public Sector Bodies Accessibility Regulations 2018, mandating compliance for all public institutions, including charities and other non-governmental organisations. 

This law was created to ensure that public institutions’ services are accessible to individuals with disabilities, requiring that websites and mobile apps: 

  • meet the WCAG 2.1 AA
  • have an accessible statement describing any elements of their website that do not fulfil WCAG 2.1 AA regulations

The Central Digital and Data Office (CDDO) is the entity responsible for ensuring the compliance of government digital content. 

The European Accessibility Act (EAA): Why it still matters for UK businesses

Although the UK is no longer part of the European Union, it’s important to highlight the European Accessibility Act (EAA), which was required to be adopted into EU member countries’ laws by June 2022, as it impacts UK businesses. 

It’s estimated that approximately 200,000 UK companies conduct business with EU nations and, in 2021 alone, UK exports to the EU were £2 billion, amounting to more than 40% of total exports.

The EU created its own standard, EN 301 549, which consists of WCAG 2.1 AA, with some additional criteria. The EAA requires EU member countries to enforce the EAA across all private sector businesses providing goods and services within the EU by June 2025.  

The UK government has not made plans to enforce the same codes and regulations as the EAA but many UK businesses who wish to offer their products and services to customers in the EU, will need to align with EAA measures. 

It’s also worth noting that at least one country has begun enforcement well in advance of June 2025. Italy declared that as of November 2022, it would enforce the EAA, as adopted into its own law, against businesses with annual sales of more than €500 EUR. It is plausible to forecast that other EU countries may also enforce the EAA’s provisions before June 2025. 

It’s important to understand that each EU member nation will be responsible for its own enforcement, penalties, and sanctions of the EAA. This means that if your business is in operation in multiple EU countries, you could be at risk of amassing significant fines for non-compliance.

Web accessibility standards for your UK business

As web accessibility laws tighten up in the UK, businesses need to step up their game. The go-to global standards for web accessibility guidelines are outlined in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). These guidelines provide a framework to ensure websites are usable by everyone, including those with disabilities. These accessible website standards are the benchmark for making your site accessible, covering everything from text contrast to navigation aids. Sticking to them not only boosts your accessibility compliance but also broadens your audience. 

WCAG 2.2 matters: Working in line with the WCAG

Accessibility is increasingly in the spotlight across the UK, with new standards raising the bar for digital services. From October 2024, all UK Government public sector websites and mobile apps must meet the WCAG 2.2 AA guidelines. This shift will require diligent effort from teams across government to enhance service accessibility, and we’re here to support these changes.

To facilitate this transition, thousands of government services will need updates to WCAG 2.2 in 2024. We’ve proactively updated our GOV.UK Design System to better serve the UK public sector. This system equips teams with accessible code and vital guidance for creating consistent, usable, and accessible services within the GOV.UK ecosystem.

By embracing these changes, we can build government services that are not only more inclusive but also more effective, particularly for disabled individuals. Implementing WCAG 2.2 success criteria will significantly enhance service quality, improving interaction methods, enhancing keyboard navigation visibility, and providing consistently located help tools and support for easier information entry. 

Should UK businesses invest in accessibility training?

It’s surprising but true: not many folks are well-versed in accessibility. It’s kind of like a hidden gem in business and design practices. When you think about it, understanding accessibility isn’t just about meeting legal requirements – it’s about tapping into a wider market and enhancing user experience for everyone. This includes making sure that websites, buildings, and services are usable by people with a range of disabilities. 

Often, the lack of awareness or training can lead businesses to overlook these crucial aspects, missing out on the opportunity to connect with a broader audience. Isn’t it about time we brought this knowledge into the mainstream? 

Getting your team up to speed with UK accessibility standards is a smart strategy for any business. Accessible web and mobile content opens your organisation’s doors to a wider audience, ensuring that everyone, regardless of disability, can interact with your services seamlessly.

UK accessibility training typically covers a range of topics, from understanding physical accessibility requirements for buildings to diving deep into digital accessibility for websites and mobile apps. Participants learn about the principles of inclusive design, practical ways to implement Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), and how to conduct accessibility audits.

Investing in this training can transform the way your team thinks about user experience, pushing the envelope from “standard” to “exceptional.” 

How to comply with UK accessibility laws

To move closer to conformance with UK accessibility laws, it’s vital to partner with experts in the accessibility space. 

At UserWay, we are accessibility advocates, communicating the legal and ethical requirements of web accessibility standards and legislation. We also provide businesses with innovative tools and solutions required to progress on their digital accessibility journeys.

Take advantage of our suite of AI-powered accessibility solutions:

1. UserWay’s Accessibility Widget provides users with customised accessibility options that bring your digital assets closer to compliance with accessibility standards, including WCAG 2.1, ADA, EN 301 549 and more.

2. UserWay’s Accessibility Scanner gives you the opportunity to easily identify and fix WCAG conformance issues on your website. With a scan of your whole website, you benefit from streamlined accessibility testing. The UserWay scanner gives you alerts to any accessibility errors and performs a remediation of those errors.

3. UserWay’s Accessibility Audit offers UK businesses you a snapshot of how accessible your website is, flagging any issues in need of fixing and helps you remediate live issues, closing accessibility gaps. This AI-powered solution moves you closer to WCAG compliance and public sector website accessibility regulations.

UserWay: Helping you meet UK accessibility laws

Incorporating UserWay’s accessibility tools helps businesses align with UK accessibility laws effectively. By integrating these solutions, companies can ensure their digital platforms comply with regulations and guidelines such as the WCAG guidelines outlined in the Equality Act and Public Sector Bodies Accessibility Regulations. UserWay not only simplifies the path to compliance but also enhances overall user accessibility, demonstrating a proactive commitment to inclusivity.

Curious about compliance? Get in touch for a consultation today.  

Common FAQs

What are the UK building regulations for accessibility?

Building regulations for accessibility in the UK legally require that new buildings make ‘reasonable provisions’ to allow people access and use buildings and their facilities. This includes ensuring that both the digital interfaces and physical spaces meet specific accessibility standards. These regulations ensure that accessibility standards for public spaces and technology are applied, promoting inclusivity in public infrastructure.

What are UK disability discrimination laws?

UK disability discrimination laws, primarily defined by the Equality Act 2010, protect individuals from unfair treatment due to disabilities in areas like employment, education, and access to goods and services.

What is the equality and diversity legislation?

Under the UK Equality Act, we are obligated to consider several key factors when making decisions: eliminating discrimination, harassment, and victimisation; promoting equal opportunities; and fostering positive relationships within the community.

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