Digital accessibility, whether through a mobile phone or computer, has become indispensable to everyday life. Designing digital content with UK accessibility laws at the centre should be the foundation of any organisation’s strategy. It’s also becoming increasingly important for businesses to make their online content and websites accessible for legal reasons.
The United Kingdom’s accessibility regulations framework indicates its commitment to meeting accessibility requirements for people with disabilities through main pieces of legislation:
- The Equality Act 2010
- 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:
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.
As for enforcement, no charges have been brought against private companies for violations of this law.
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 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 Remain the Best Decision for Your Business
As web accessibility starts to gain traction within the UK, compliance with the current regulations are even more important now. The benefits to making the web accessible for everyone are countless:
- Helping people with a permanent or temporary disability
- Useful tools for elderly people and people lacking digital skills
- More readily indexed by search engines
- Increased compatibility with a larger range of apps
- Quicker and faster to navigate
- Improve your company’s brand by reflecting a commitment to digital inclusion
- Important aspect of ESG
- Reach a wider audience and consumers
Complying with UK Accessibility Laws: Your Next Steps
We recommend that, 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 customized 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 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.
Digital Accessibility, Beyond Compliance
Your business needs to stay ahead of the curve, promoting inclusivity for everyone across all digital assets, regardless of where the accessibility compliance standards are set. By collaborating with UserWay, you can spearhead your digital accessibility efforts by planning for the future, today.
Want to learn more about how you can become WCAG compliant? Get in touch for a consultation today.
Is web accessibility a legal requirement for businesses in the UK?
Yes. Although there is no web accessibility standard for the private sector specified under the Equality Act 2010, all UK goods and service providers are required to have accessible websites and mobile applications.
Does the UK have an ADA law?
Yes, the United Kingdom’s Equality Act 2010 is the closest equivalent to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Is WCAG 2.1 AA a legal requirement?
Yes. As per the Public Sector Bodies Accessibility Regulations 2018, public sector entities should comply with the WCAG 2.1 AA standard, but there is no legal requirement for the private sector.