What you need to know about the September 2019 accessibility requirements

From 23rd September 2019 public sector websites will be required to meet new accessibility guidelines. Here is what that actually means.

What is accessibility?

Accessibility (or ‘a11y’) doesn’t just refer to people with disabilities but is about ensuring everyone is able to use every site on the web. Accessibility can affect anyone; users could be in a loud place, have had eye surgery or have a broken arm which affects how they browse.  

These are the most common needs for accessibility that will need to be addressed within the new requirements:

Screen readers

A screen reader is software that enables users with visual impairments to use a computer. The screen reader reads out the content of the page and users can carry out tasks using keyboard commands.

Screen reader users are able to navigate web pages by heading structure and links. Here’s how a screen reader reads links and the importance of keeping them accessible:

Video: screen-reading software reading out link text as user tabs from link to link

Colour contrast

Colour contrast between text and the background can severely affect users ability to read content on a page. For text to be readable, it needs to have sufficient contrast with the background.

Colour contrast example From the gov.uk accessibility blog

Alternative ways to view media

Using alt text on all your images ensures screen readers can provide a text equivalent. Videos should have options for subtitles and audio description for those who can’t view them.

Causing distress to users

Could your content cause anguish to users? Although it may look nice, continuous movement or autoplay audio can be very distressing. They could even cause seizures or other physical reactions.


If you haven’t actively made your PDF accessible, chances are it isn’t. Wherever possible documents should be published as HTML, like the online version of a UK Statistics Authority strategy document.

Do these regulations apply to me?

Every new public sector website and app will need to meet the new guidelines.

There are also different deadlines depending on when your website launched:

What’s covered

Deadline to comply with the regulations

New public sector websites (published after 22 September 2018) 22 September 2019
All other public sector websites 22 September 2020
Public sector mobile applications 22 June 2021

Deadline table from GDS accessibility blog

Read about exceptions to the new regulations on the Gov.uk blog.

What do I have to do?

From September 2019 your website must:

The Government Digital Service (GDS) has a handy sample accessibility statement you can use.

Thankfully, if you don’t have the resources available you may be able to show that you’re taking steps towards meeting the requirements rather than have everything completed for September.

What next?

We can help get your website ready for the new accessibility requirements. Get in touch to find out more about the services we offer:

  • manual and automated accessibility testing
  • user experience testing
  • writing for the web training, including how to write accessible content
  • content design and editing
  • creating accessible PDFs
  • accessible PDF training
  • HTML templates for online documents
  • help writing accessibility statements