How to write an Accessibility Statement
What is an Accessibility Statement?
An accessibility statement is a document that tells your website users about how useable the website is for those that have disabilities and to what level of measurement the website meets in respect to the globally accepted set of standards as set down by W3C (Worldwide Web Consortium). Specifically by a set of standards called WCAG – Website Content Accessibility Guidelines) these are global although there are some other, specific standards of measurement in certain parts of the world where those local websites need to meet.
The same goes for apps, too.
In some instances, such as those websites that need to legally meet certain standards, such as public bodies in the UK who must meet the level WCAG 2.1AA, the document is legally binding but as yet in the UK, it is not compulsory for private websites.
The statement must set out some key information to demonstrate to the user that you understand what the commitment is:
- the standard of measure to which you claim to achieve (e.g WCAG 2.1AA)
- a description of the measurement points and level of functionality (e.g attributes like colour, contrast, zoom level, navigation method, compatibility with screen readers and more)
- your testing procedure (what you use and how often you test) and the date the website was last tested
- your remediation process
- what things you know are not accessible or that meet the standard of the rest of the site (e.g old content that cannot be made accessible, 3rd party content, social media and off-website content where your links may take the user)
- how a user can contact you if they need additional assistance or need to report a newly found issue
- setting out what the user’s rights are if you are legally bound to meet a certain accessibility level
Why should I make my website more accessible?
In the UK around 1 in 5 people have a disability or situation that means they have barriers in getting information from a website that is not accessible. That’s 20% +/- of the entire country, so why would you knowingly exclude that much of your audience?
It is worth bearing in mind that the more accessible you want to make the website, the less the reliance on visual and stylistic design – there can be as a lot of disabled users interact with the website in different ways that do not rely on sight so it’s more about function and how well the website both technically works with assistive technology and how the content on the page has been written and constructed.
How to write an accessibility statement
The best place to start is to understand whether you legally need an accessibility statement or not. This is going to be determined by what country you are in and what legal entity your website is owned by. For example, in the UK, all public body (government run/owned) must meet accessibility standards WCAG 2.1AA). However, you may wish to achieve a level of accessibility measurement just to ensure you are being inclusive to all internet users.
The next step – checking the accessibility of your website
Check your website to see how accessible it is according to the WCAG guidelines – there are many checking methods out there – from free browser extensions, such as WAVE by Webaim browser extension that you check each page manually at a time through to paid-for services that scan the entire site and provide a report with actions, such as pope.tech. Be sure to also ask folk that actually have disabilities to check the site, too – local community members, social networks, such as Mastodon have large groups of accessibility champions and users who will help.
Making sure that you check your website both by software-based methods as well as real people – after all, the software can identify the technical issues but it won’t identify where there are language or content meaning issues – those are only discovered by people.
Deciding on what level of accessibility to achieve
Read the WCAG guidelines and know what you want to aim for in terms of level of accessibility – there are different levels with an increasing level of accessibility features but remember that you will need to do some technical work on your website to address the non-content related issues. You may need some help with that but for the most part, the content-related aspects (words, images and files on the page) can all be addressed through your website editor.
Once all that is done and you know what level of accessibility you want and can meet, it’s time to start to add the specific things about your website to the document.
You can, of course, make continual improvements to increase the standard of measure but you’ll need to learn the basics, first.
In the UK, all councils and public bodies must meet WCAG 2.1AA accessibility standard.
How to create the accessibility statement document
You don’t have to start from scratch. There are a number of excellent model documents out there that have already got the key aspects that relate to the certain standards. For example, to meet WCAG 2.1AA for UK parish & town councils and public bodies, the accessibility statement model document can be found on the gov.uk website.
This is not being lazy as there’s still a lot of things that are specific things that relate specifically to your website you will need to add or edit, but it means the core attributes of the standard you want to meet are there for you to understand and include.
However, it should be noted that it is not recommended just to ‘copy and paste’ someone else’s statement thinking they are all the same. They are not and there are many occasions where we have seen accessibility statements on websites that still refer to the source website from where it was lifted.
Remember, as a parish or town council, this is a formal, legal policy document and as such much be adopted by the council – so it is in the council’s interest to make sure it is fully read and adjusted to meet the parish or town council’s needs before being adopted.
Once it’s done – read through it. Share it with a community to see if they feel it reflects your website’s level of accessibility and when it’s published on your website be sure to add a link to it from the homepage and part of the site’s navigation.
An accessibility statement is an organic document – it will need reviewing and updating as your website changes and you add new content and things you come across when checking the site.
Here’s our accessibility statement for this website.
Finally – the format. Don’t just post up a PDF of the statement on your website. Put the content on the web page itself. by all means have an accessible PDF or Word document on the page as well but having the content in HTML in a properly structured format with headings on the web page means that it will be digestible by everyone – specifically those with disabilities.
If your council needs guidance or help, we provide parish & town council websites that are compliant and accessible and come with accessibility statement support.