Recently several of our clients asked us about an accessibility statement - what it is, if and why they should add it to their sites, and what it should include. We thought it would be a good idea to summarise our responses in a blog post.
What is an accessibility statement?
In short, an accessibility statement is an expression of an organisation’s commitment to accessibility and an overview of the site's current state of accessibility and its future goals.
What should an accessibility statement include?
Generally speaking a good accessibility statement should:
- Provide information about the standards that have been used to determine the level of site’s accessibility, such as Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 - level A, AA or AAA. Where applicable, references to relevant laws and policies should also be added.
- Describe current status of site’s accessibility - for example, does the site meet WCAG 2.1 standard? At what level, A, AA or AAA?
- List accessibility features and strengths - explain what your site currently does to make it easy to use for people with disabilities, for example: all content can be accessed using keyboard, all images have an alternative description, a skip to content link is provided at the top of every page, etc.
- Where applicable, describe any accessibility widgets or tools that are available on your site, such as colour contrast or font size switcher, text-to-speech plugin, etc.
- Identify areas that are not fully accessible (for example, ‘none of the videos on our site have audio description’). Be honest and transparent - if there are any limitations you’re aware of, let your users know in advance. This will help them manage their expectations and avoid frustration.
- Inform the users about accessible alternatives. For example, let the users know that although at the moment none of the videos have an audio description, there’s a transcript provided for each one of them
- Describe how and when you are planning to resolve existing issues. Make sure your goals are realistic and commit to them
- Provide contact details so that the users know who to get in touch with if they have any accessibility related questions or problems.
- Provide information on how your organisation is working towards achieving (or maintaining) site’s accessibility. Describe your future goals (for example, ‘we’re aiming for WCAG 2.1 level AA compliance by the end of 2020’).
Please note that the format of accessibility statements for public sector bodies is more strict and certain sections are mandatory. For more information see the relevant section of The Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) Accessibility Regulations 2018.
How should it be written?
Make sure your accessibility statement is… accessible!
Remember that although having an accessibility statement is, in some cases, a legal requirement, it shouldn’t read like a legal document. Its target audience is your users. Avoid using technical or legal jargon, and make sure the content is written in a simple and easy to understand language.
If you’re still unsure how to write an accessibility statement for your site, there are several templates and generators you could use, for example:
- W3C WAI accessibility statement generator
- W3C WAI minimal example
- W3C WAI complete example
- GOV.UK sample accessibility statement for a public sector website
Why should I add an accessibility statement to my site?
First of all, it shows your users that you care about making the site accessible to everyone, in other words that all your users are equally valued and everyone’s needs are taken into consideration.
For people with disabilities it can also provide a good starting point for exploring your site. It should give them a good overview of what they can expect - what content is accessible, where they can face some challenges, and what they can do when it happens.
Providing contact details also encourages dialogue, as it gives the users the opportunity to share their experiences and help you improve your site.
Finally, for public sector websites and mobile apps in the UK having an accessibility statement is a legal requirement. The Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) Accessibility Regulations 2018 states that all public websites and apps have to meet accessibility standards and publish an accessibility statement.
I have written an accessibility statement. What’s next?
Make sure it’s easy to find. A good practice is to include a link to your accessibility statement on every page, for example by placing it in the site’s header or footer.
Once the accessibility statement is written and published, it’s easy to forget about it. But remember that an accessibility statement is a declaration of commitment. Make sure you’re actually working towards resolving existing issues, maintaining your site’s accessibility and meeting your future goals.
Ensure all users’ queries are promptly responded to, and any reported issues are evaluated and, if possible, resolved.
You also need to remember to regularly review your accessibility statement. Public sector websites and apps are required to update it annually.
Show your commitment to accessibility
Even if you’re not required by law to add an accessibility statement to your site, it may still be a good idea to do it.
It’s a great way to clearly communicate your organisation’s commitment to accessibility and to show your users (all of them!) that you care about their needs. It helps people with disabilities understand your site’s strengths, limitations and alternative ways of accessing content. It also demonstrates that your organisation is transparent, inclusive and socially responsible.
For more guidance on how to improve accessibility on your website, get in touch.