New regulations on accessibility have been published but do not have effect until September
The Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) Accessibility Regulations (SI 2018/852) have been published and have effect from 23 September 2018. They transpose Directive 2016/2102 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the accessibility of websites and mobile applications of public sector bodies.
The objective of the Directive is the establishment of a harmonised market for the accessibility of public sector bodies’ websites and mobile applications. The Directive aims to make websites and mobile applications of public sector bodies more accessible to users, particularly persons with disabilities. According to the Explanatory Note to the Regulations:
It must however be pointed out that the list of exemptions, which is surprisingly wide, and the long lead times for some obligations hardly chimes well with the stated purpose of the Directive. For example, the basic compliance obligation does not bite until as late as June 2021 in some cases (reg 4(c)) and a public sector body need not comply with the accessibility requirement ‘if doing so would impose a disproportionate burden on the public sector body’ (reg 6(1)).
A darkly humorous note is provided by reg 9(2), which requires that ‘no later than 23rd December 2021, and every three years thereafter, the Minister for the Cabinet Office must submit a report to the European Commission on the outcome of the monitoring [reg 9(1)]’.