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Blog: Speaking plainly

The value of accessibility for public sector websites

Recent research indicates that less than 1% of website home pages are likely to meet standard accessibility requirements. If you’re not addressing the accessibility of your website, then you’re excluding a significant amount of people.

The NHS estimates that approximately 1.5 million people in the UK have a learning disability. Beyond this, there are approximately 2 million people in Britain living with sight loss that is severe enough to have a significant impact on their daily lives. Approximately 1 in 8 of adult males and 1 in 200 adult females have some form of colour blindness. In total, there are approximately 13.9 million disabled people in the UK, including 19% of working age adults.

These numbers are significant but they only include those with diagnosed disabilities. Uncaptured by these statistics is the fact that the average reading age for adults in the UK is roughly nine years old. If your website uses complex language or jargon, your audience may be struggling to understand your essential information. 

Web accessibility laws and regulations

Web accessibility laws exist to protect people with disabilities, and help make sure that the digital world is a fair and welcoming place for all. The Public Sector Bodies Accessibility Regulations 2018 has made accessibility a requirement for UK public sector organisations. It requires all public sector body websites to meet the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.1) to Level AA and publish an accessibility statement.

The WCAG explain how to make websites and applications accessible to people with disabilities. They take into account the design, structure and presentation of content.

For example, for a website to be fully accessible, then it must be possible to navigate using only the keyboard. For this to be possible, the website must have a clean and precise layout – making it easier to navigate for all.

But it’s important to remember that accessibility isn’t just about the technical aspects of your website. It also encompasses the language that you use and how easy your content is to understand.

Readability matters too

With the UK’s average reading age at nine years old, it’s easy to find yourself talking over your audience. Avoiding this is critical in ensuring your website is as inclusive as possible.

It’s natural to overcomplicate language, especially when there’s industry terminology involved. But more often than not, using a lot of jargon ends up excluding most people. It’s important to strike the right balance. Using everyday language can help, even if it feels strange at first.

Keeping up to date

Making sure your website is suitable for all users can seem like a big task.  When you factor in the need to refresh the site with regular updates, it can seem impossible. But it’s important to remember that you do not need to do this alone.

Keeping your website up to date is not like taking an exam. You can call in outside help and get support from your team and even technology to make the job easier. Regardless of what help you choose, the process remains the same. Being sure to scan the website for compliance and to improve readability should be an ongoing practice in any organisation. Analysing everything from sentence-length to jargon, reading age and even broken links will make sure your website is as accessible as possible.

Accessibility measures are not just ‘nice to have’.’ They are essential if we are to strive towards a society that is accepting and accommodating of everyone.

Discover more

To help, Texthelp have put together a free virtual digital accessibility bootcamp. It’ll help you understand how to make your website and digital content more accessible for everyone. Register for free and gain access to webinars, resources and tools designed to help you take action in your organisation.

Ryan Graham is Chief Technology Officer at LGcomms partner TextHelp


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