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Expect government services to be accessible online, with assisted support for public sector websites

Last updated: 03:06pm 8 December 2019

We will therefore create… an expectation that all government services are fully accessible online, with assisted digital support available for all public sector websites.

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.80

Our verdict

Internet users lacking confidence, trust or digital skills may need help to use services online. This pledge to provide access and assisted digital support means public bodies must make sure everyone who needs a service can use it. Support may be provided in person, over the telephone or via a webchat.

In September 2018, the government passed the Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) Accessibility Regulations, setting out the obligation for public bodies to make all websites and mobile apps accessible according to the principle that services should be “perceivable, operable, understandable and robust”. Public sector websites created after 23 September 2018 must meet accessibility standards and publish an accessibility statement. Websites created prior to 23 September 2018 must comply with the new regulations by 23 September 2020.

The government has published new regulations and guidelines which oblige public sector websites to be accessible. The requirement that they be “operable” and “understandable” creates a clear expectation that online services will provide assisted digital support to those who struggle to “operate” or “understand” them. Whether “all public sector websites” comply with the new regulations remains to be seen, but this policy is not a promise to enforce the regulations, only to create an expectation. We think there’s evidence to say this is ‘done’.

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