Accessibility Laws in the United Kingdom

Get an overview of accessibility legislation in the United Kingdom and what steps to take to ensure compliance.

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What is the European Accessibility Act?

The EU Web Accessibility Directive was implemented in the UK as the Public Sector Bodies Accessibility Regulations in September 2018.

Despite the fact that the UK is no longer a member of the European Union, this law will remain in place. As of September 23, 2020, all public sector organizations in the UK must meet the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) Level AA.

Private sector websites in the UK are covered by The Equality Act of 2010, which requires site owners to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to ensure their sites are accessible to people with disabilities.

Who has to comply with UK accessibility law?

Web accessibility is a requirement in the UK for both public and private organizations. As all organizations operating in Europe will still need to comply with European Accessibility Act (EAA) regulations, we strongly recommend UK businesses future proof themselves by meeting accessibility requirements as soon as possible.

There are some exemptions to the EAA, such as if meeting its requirements would cause a ‘disproportionate burden’ to an organization. However, in such an example a formal assessment would need to be undertaken for this case to be made.

An overview of UK and EU law

Despite the fact that the UK was involved in the creation of the EAA, following Brexit there is currently no plan to implement it into national law. It is important to note that organizations based in the UK will still be expected to comply with EAA requirements when operating within EU member states, however.

Intended to introduce more accessible products and services to the market, lower prices for such services, and create more accessibility related jobs, the European Accessibility Act (EAA) is a directive of the European Union that legally requires EU member states to enact various accessibility requirements.

The Act will have significant and far reaching effects for online organizations operating within the EU. Most importantly, it will provide EU member states with a set of common accessibility rules to follow, which will theoretically bring about greater cohesion and consistency to the area as a whole.

Significantly, the new Act applies not just to public sector organizations, as was the case with previous EU legislation - the EU Web Accessibility Directive, but also to selected private organizations.

The European Accessibility Act covers the following products and services:

  • Computers and operating systems
  • ATMs, ticketing, and check-in machines
  • Telephones and smartphones
  • TV equipment related to digital television services
  • Telephony services and related equipment
  • Audiovisual media services
  • Services related to air, bus, rail, and waterborne passenger transport
  • Banking services
  • E-books
  • E-commerce

As previously stated, it is important to note that the EAA applies to products and services sold or used within the EU - irrespective of where the businesses providing said products and services are located, including the UK.

What web accessibility standards do UK regulations use?

UK Accessibility Law is based on the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), which is widely recognized as an international digital accessibility standard. Generally speaking, content that meets Level AA guidelines is considered reasonably accessible for the majority of people with disabilities.

WCAG 2.1’s four principles of accessibility are as follows: perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust.

The information and user interface components of websites and mobile applications must be presented in a way that enables users to perceive them clearly.

The functionality and navigation of the web and mobile user interface components must be usable.

The information and operation of the web and mobile user interface must be easily understood by people of differing abilities.

The content of the website must have the ability to be interpreted reliably across a range of assistive technologies, and have the ability to adapt to new user agents.

How to comply with UK accessibility law

To comply with the UK’s accessibility standards, organizations must ensure that they are taking the necessary measures to make their websites and mobile applications accessible by following the WCAG principles of perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. In addition to this, public sector organizations are required to publish an accessibility statement, which is also good practice for private sector websites.

Benefits for businesses and consumers

UK accessibility laws serve as an incentive for companies to produce more accessible products and services. As very similar requirements apply to all EU member countries, and not simply to those countries who have already established their own accessibility regulations, the market for accessible offerings is Europe is set to greatly expand.

This, in turn, will benefit UK consumers, who will have more accessible products and services made available to them.

Are any organizations exempt from the UK’s accessibility requirements?

There are some organizations, referred to as "micro-enterprises," that are exempt from UK accessibility legislation, based on the fact that its requirements would cause them "undue burden"

Micro-enterprises are defined as companies with fewer than 10 employees and with an annual turnover of less than two million Euros. Such organizations are exempt from the UK’s accessibility requirements, as for them achieving compliance would either mean changing the core nature of the product or service they offer or becoming financially overburdened.

In addition, the Public Sector Bodies Accessibility Regulations do not apply to the following types of content on websites and apps:

  • Pre-recorded time-based media published before June 2025.
  • Office file format documents published before June 2025.
  • Online maps; though if the map is used for navigational purposes then the essential information must be provided in accessible format.
  • Third party content that is entirely out of the control of the website or app owner.
  • Reproductions of items in heritage collections which are too fragile or expensive to digitize.
  • The content of web sites and apps which are considered archival, meaning they are not needed for active administrative purposes and are no longer updated or edited.
  • The web sites of schools, kindergartens, and nurseries, except for content pertaining to administrative functions.

What happens if you fail to comply with UK accessibility law?

The Central Digital and Data Office (CDDO) is responsible for ensuring that all public sector websites are in full compliance with accessibility rules in the UK.

If there are any suspicions, perhaps resulting from routine inspections, this body has the right to request access to any content, whether on company websites or elsewhere in the public domain. Any company that fails to publish an accessibility statement on its website will subsequently have its name published on the CDDO list; it may be subject to sanctions.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission is responsible for enforcing all the requirements of the law. Not only does the Commission have the power to investigate a company that has violated the law, but it also has the authority to take the company to court.

How Monsido can help your website comply with UK accessibility laws

Monsido’s Web Accessibility Module audits your entire site for digital accessibility against the WCAG 2.0, 2.1 and 2.2 success criteria (and any subsequent updates to the guidelines).

Each audit scans your site for machine-testable issues, provides detailed reports so you can review any errors that may arise, gives you targeted recommendations on how to address these errors based on the guidelines, and shows you your compliance based on WCAG 2.0, 2.1 and 2.2 levels A, AA, and AAA. You can track and prove your accessibility compliance progress via reports in the History Center. We also offer accessibility training to customers and support, all-inclusive, to ensure that you are well-versed in both automated and manual remediation methods, and are able to efficiently and consistently improve your website’s accessibility.

Monsido also offers free tools to complement your web accessibility efforts, including a color contrast checker for web teams to test out compliant color combinations for their web design, and an accessibility statement generator, which helps you meet the requirements of the Public Sector Bodies Accessibility Regulations by producing a public statement declaring your commitment to web accessibility.


The information in this article is made available by Acquia Inc. and/or its subsidiaries and affiliates and is for informational purposes only so as to provide its customers with a general understanding of current legal developments. It should not be construed as providing specific legal advice, and you acknowledge that no attorney/client relationship exists between you or any third party and Acquia Inc. and/or its subsidiaries and affiliates. This article should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed lawyer in your jurisdiction.

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