Companies House - Meeting government accessibility regulations
Recent government regulations around accessibility have come into effect, and in this post we’ll tell you more about them and what we’re doing at Companies House to ensure that we not only adhere to these regulations, but also how we work with our users to develop systems that they trust and value.
The accessibility regulations aim to help make sure online public services are accessible to all users, including disabled people. To meet the regulations, public sector organisations such as Companies House need to ensure their services meet a standard, by a few key dates.
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (known as WCAG 2.1), are an internationally recognised set of recommendations for improving web accessibility.
The actual WCAG specifications are quite technical, but if you want an overview then GDS (the Government Digital Service) has written a brief summary of some key WCAG 2.1 points.
Services needed to meet the standard by various dates, depending on when they were launched. All services needed to be accessible by 23 September 2020 (with some exceptions).
One question we’re often asked is - what would happen if we did not meet the regulations?
Well first and foremost, if our services were not accessible then many of our users would not be able to use our services, as 1 in 5 people in the UK has a disability.
Given one of our corporate strategic goals for the next 5 years is to provide brilliant services for customers that are digital-first, accessible and easy to use, inaccessible services would lead to problems, a potential increase in customer complaints, and the obvious reputational damage that comes with that.
So, what have we been doing to ensure we meet the accessibility regulations and ensure that our brilliant services continue to deliver a great customer experience? In short, a lot.
The first thing we did was find out how accessible our services currently were. We have a lot of services, some new and some (very) old.
So, once we’d determined how accessible our services were, we needed to do 2 things:
- Put a plan in place to fix any issues. Ideally these fixes would all be in place before regulations came into effect (September 2020). If not, we’d need to specify when they would be in place.
- Publish an accessibility statement for each service. You’ll find these in the footer of our services (and other services across government). These statements give users information such as how accessible the service is, who users can contact to report issues, and how the service was tested (or audited).
In a future blog post, we’ll cover how accessible our services are, and what else we are doing in Companies House to promote accessibility and ensure we continue to deliver a brilliant service for customers.