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WCAG2.2AA and the changes to website accessibility compliance for parish & town councils

Mark Tomkins

Changes in Website Accessibility for Parish & Town Councils from October 2024: WCAG 2.1AA to 2.2AA – what does it mean?

As all parish and town council clerks know, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are a set the international standard for making web content accessible to people with disabilities. Understanding the differences between WCAG versions – particularly 2.1AA and the newer 2.2AA – is crucial for town and parish councils and those that update their websites to ensure their websites are inclusive and compliant.

Aubergine are one of the country’s leading experts in providing compliant websites for town and parish councils and are authors of the NALC Website Accessibility Publishing Guidebook. We collaborate with the SLCC and many Local Council Associations in helping councils achieve website compliance through advice and training.

This article explains about the incoming changes to the website accessibility compliance level for parish & town councils and what it means.

Core meaning of WCAG: WCAG 2.1AA

WCAG 2.1AA is the current recognised standard for web accessibility compliance for parish & town councils. It outlines four key principles: Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust (POUR).

Achieving WCAG 2.1AA compliance is the primary goal. It addresses a wide range of accessibility needs, including:

  • Visual Impairments: Guaranteeing content can be presented in alternative formats like text & screen readers or with increased contrast.
  • Hearing Impairments: Providing captions for audio content and transcripts for videos.
  • Cognitive and Learning Disabilities: Using clear language, logical page and content structure, and predictable navigation.
  • Motor Disabilities: Ensuring keyboard accessibility and compatibility with assistive technologies.


Day to day, there are publishing techniques that will be familiar – descriptive link text (so no ‘click heres’), adding ALT text for images, uploading accessible documents and using heading structures to the page to name a few. But with the change to WCAG2.2AA as the compliance standard from October 2024, what changes or new practices will councils need to make when updating their website? compliance

With a move towards all councils in England and Wales having a website address it’s also important to know that councils that operate from a domain need to comply with the website accessibility regulations as part of the terms of use set down by the CDDO (Cabinet Digital Data Office). This means that, if you are or plan to change your website address to a domain, you must achieve website compliance, not only from a legal perspective for public bodies but also when using the domain.


WCAG 2.2AA: Raising the Bar

WCAG 2.2AA introduces additional success criteria, building upon the foundation of 2.1AA. These new criteria focus on:

  • Enhanced User Experience for People with Cognitive and Learning Disabilities: Emphasis on predictable behaviour, making content easier to understand and navigate.
  • Improved Touch Screen Accessibility: Addressing the growing use of touch-based devices by ensuring smooth interaction with web elements.
  • Focus on Content That Changes Over Time: Guaranteeing live content updates remain accessible, including compatibility with assistive technologies.


These, as well as the practices already learned since 2018, will need to be considered when adding and editing content on your parish or town council’s website.


Relevance for Town and Parish Councils

Town and parish councils have a legal obligation under the Equality Act 2010 to ensure their services are accessible to everyone. Websites are a crucial service delivery channel, so meeting WCAG standards is both essential in order to engage with the whole community as well as it being a legal requirement. Here’s how:

  • Inclusion: A WCAG-compliant website allows all residents, regardless of ability or disability, to access council information and services. This fosters a sense of community and ensures everyone has equal access to information and participation.
  • Engagement: An accessible website promotes greater engagement with residents. People with disabilities can easily find council news, meeting agendas, and contact information, leading to a more informed and involved community.
  • Legal Compliance: Meeting WCAG standards helps councils avoid potential legal challenges related to website accessibility.

Choosing Between WCAG 2.1AA and 2.2AA

While WCAG 2.2AA offers a more comprehensive approach, achieving 2.1AA compliance remains the goal for most town and parish councils until the change in October 2024. Here’s why:

  • Focus on Core Needs: WCAG 2.1AA addresses the most common accessibility barriers, ensuring a good baseline for most users.
  • Resource Constraints: Many councils have limited resources. Implementing WCAG2.1AA is generally more manageable, especially for smaller parish websites.
  • Phased Approach: Councils can prioritise 2.1AA compliance and gradually work towards incorporating elements of 2.2AA as resources allow.

Taking Action

Here are steps town and parish councils can take to ensure website accessibility:

  • Conduct an Accessibility Audit: Evaluate your current website against WCAG 2.1AA success criteria. Several online tools and accessibility experts, such as Aubergine can assist.
  • Develop an Accessibility Plan: Outline a strategy for achieving and maintaining WCAG compliance. Prioritise critical accessibility fixes.
  • Invest in Training: Train staff responsible for website content and design on WCAG principles and best practices.
  • Continuously Monitor: Regularly assess your website for accessibility issues, especially as content and functionality evolve.

By prioritising WCAG compliance, town and parish councils can ensure everyone in their community has equal access to vital information and services online. This fosters a more inclusive and engaged community.


Publishing and actionable differences in the way you publish on your website

While WCAG 2.1AA and 2.2AA share the core ‘POUR’ principles, there are some practical differences in how you approach publishing content to meet each standard. Here’s a breakdown of key actionable steps for each:


  • Content Alternatives: Ensure all non-text content has a text alternative. This includes providing alt text descriptions for images, captions and transcripts for videos, and descriptive labels for form fields.
  • Keyboard Accessibility: Guarantee all interactive elements (buttons, links, menus) can be navigated and activated using a keyboard alone. This ensures users who rely on assistive technologies like screen readers can interact with your website.
  • Colour Contrast: Maintain a sufficient contrast ratio between text and background colours. This is crucial for people with visual impairments to read the content comfortably. Tools like online contrast checkers, such as Wave by Webaim can help you achieve the required contrast.
  • Focus Order: Structure your website so it follows a logical navigation order when using the keyboard or assistive technologies. This allows users to understand the layout and navigate predictably. Such as using sequential headings for the page content. Here’s a helpful guided tutorial to learn about using Heading Structures on your website and documents:
  • Error Prevention: Implement mechanisms to help users avoid and correct errors in forms. This could include clear error messages, confirmation prompts, and the ability to easily navigate back and edit information.

WCAG 2.2AA (Additional Considerations):


  • Live Content Updates: For content that updates automatically (e.g., social channel content and news feeds), ensure assistive technologies can receive notifications and announce these updates to users. Most of these services are not and cannot be made accessible as the source content website won’t meet the same requirements from an accessibility standard and should be avoided if possible.
  • Touch Screen Compatibility: Guarantee all interactive elements are easily operable using touch gestures. This includes ensuring appropriate sizing and spacing of buttons and avoiding accidental activation.
  • Focus Management: When a user focuses on an element using the keyboard or assistive technology, ensure it doesn’t cause unexpected content to shift or disappear – such as animation that makes the screen or element jump or move. This can be disruptive for users with cognitive disabilities.

Remember, these are just some of the key differences. Both WCAG versions provide detailed success criteria that go deeper into specific technical aspects.

Additional Tips for Town and Parish Councils:


  • Use Clear and Simple Language: Avoid technical and ‘council language’ jargon and legalistic language. Aim for plain English that everyone can understand. Also avoid acronyms where possible.
  • Naming documents: Make sure your documents are named what they are (e.g ‘Parish council minutes January 2024.pdf’) rather than how they might be stored on your computer – you know what they are but the website visitor may not.
  • Structure Content Logically: Organise information in a clear and hierarchical way with headings, subheadings, and bullet points to make it easier to navigate.
  • Provide Search Functionality: Make it easy for users to find specific information by implementing a robust search function.

By focusing on these actionable steps, town and parish councils can take concrete actions to improve website accessibility and ensure everyone has a positive user experience.

What can I do to get my website compliant?

Because good website accessibility needs to be baked into the building of a website from the start, applying remedial fixes afterwards is both difficult and time consuming and won’t be as cost effective as having a purpose-built site. It’ll be built to meet compliance and will be modern and easy to use.

The Aubergine platform has been designed to meet the WCAG2.1AA and also WCAG2.2AA standards and was created specifically for parish & town councils. It is supported and hosted by Council sector experts many of which are both ILCA qualified and councillors themselves.

The cost of a new, fully compliant and supported website starts at just £499 + VAT for year one and reduces to £199 + VAT per year thereafter.

It includes set up, free training – both at the start and every month, should you wish, and you are supported by 12 experts who all know and understand the publishing requirements of councils.

Find out more about our parish & town council website packages.