From September 2020 any new documents, images and videos published on any government website must be accessible. We will be breaking the law if they are not.
The same rules apply to existing documents published after September 2018. If they are not accessible you must publish a statement to tell people when they will be made accessible and how they can access an alternative format if needed.
The regulations don’t require us to fix documents published before 2018 if they’re not essential to providing our services. But you must tell people how to access information in other formats if needed.
Before you create a document
- Think about the customer - service information must always be presented as a webpage.
- Documents can make content harder to find, use and maintain.
- Documents may not always work well with assistive technologies like screen readers.
- Forms must be online. You can log a job in user hub for an online form.
If you have commissioned an agency or marketing consultancy, it is your responsibility to make them aware of government accessibility legislation as we cannot publish documents that don't meet the requirements.
Creating accessible documents
1. Use clear and simple language
Simple language makes your document accessible to people with cognitive impairments and learning disabilities and helps all users to understand and process information quickly.
2. Format and structure
Government Digital Service (GDS) has published guidance on how to format and structure documents to make them accessible.
3. Create an accessible document using Microsoft Word
Once you understand the importance of using simple language, format and structure, you can create your document.
Microsoft Word has a number of accessibility features that make it easy to create accessible documents. These include:
- alt text for images
- data tables
- document language
- accessibility checker.
4. Create an accessible PDF from Microsoft Word
When you have created your accessible Word document, you will need to convert it to a PDF for it to be published on the website. If the document has been created at source in Microsoft Word, the conversion will transfer all accessible elements to the PDF. Please make sure you keep a copy of your original Word document in case you need to edit or update it later on.
5. Checking PDFs for accessibility
It is always best to start with an accessible source (Microsoft Word) and use the accessibility features in step 3 before converting it to PDF.
If a PDF has been created professionally by a graphic designer or marketing agency, you should seek the original source or speak to the designer that created it to review and make accessible.
6. Create an accessible Excel document
Microsoft has a useful guide on how to make Excel documents accessible to people with disabilities.
7. Create accessible videos
All users should be able to consume video content. An accessible video includes captions, a transcript, and audio description and is delivered in an accessible media player.