Adding features to our websites is one way to improve the user experience however that may not always be the case. Public sector bodies accessibility regulations 2018 known officially as The Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No.2) Accessibility Regulations 2018 build on existing obligations to people who have a disability under the Equality Act 2010 (or the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 in Northern Ireland). These regulations state that all UK service providers must consider ‘reasonable adjustments’ for disabled people.
Functionality or Compliance
It’s important to consider the purpose of these regulations rather than simply aiming to comply. The purpose of writing this article is to try to explain the argument for 100% compliance and on balance, partial compliance with greater functionality. Let’s consider one of the most requested features our websites, Social media feeds.
Up until quite recently, most of our Parish, Town and Community Council websites had a feed from their Facebook page or group that displayed somewhere on the website. On the introduction of the regulations, clerks became bombarded with literature that although published with the best intentions, served to almost scare councils into taking drastic action. Prior to us launching our NetWise V2 theme, which incidentally was conceived in part due to the introduction of these regulations, we’d often get requests asking for proof of compliance.
In order to achieve that elusive 100% compliance we’d run the website in question through online tests on platforms such as Wave and Google Lighthouse. We’d need to ensure that there was sufficient contrast on text, that each image had meaningful alt text and a host of other technical adjustments. One thing we’d almost always have to do however is to remove Facebook feeds. This was often due to images that were pulled through from the feed that didn’t contain alt text. Each image would flag as an error, very often resulting in less than 70% compliance.
Social media allow you to now add alt text to your images but very often these social media pages are administered by local groups with multiple page admins that possess varying degrees of IT ability.
This left us with a choice, remove the Facebook feed and declare 100% compliance or leave the feed in place and include a statement of partial conformance within the accessibility statement.
Making The Choice
The problem with third party content such as social media feeds, maps etc is that as website owners, you have little or no control over how that content may change from day to day and how that will affect your overall website compliance. You have a choice to make therefore. Either remove any embedded content and declare 100% compliance or, include the embedded content, such as a Facebook feed on the website and state that your website partially conforms in your accessibility statement.
Example Statement of Partial Compliance:
This page does not conform, but would conform to WCAG 2.0aa if the following parts from uncontrolled sources were removed (list sources, i.e Facebook feed) as this is not content that is under the authors control.
An alternative to embedding a social media feed on your website is to simply link to it. Our websites do have the ability to display Facebook, Twitter and other social media icons that we can use to link to your social media accounts. This removes the problem in its entirety whilst still providing a link for your visitors.
Working Towards Compliance
As previously mentioned, Facebook and most other social media platforms do provide tools to aid compliance. You can read the article about adding alt text to Facebook images here. You could, if you choose to declare partial compliance, also add to the statement that you are working towards compliance by (DATE). You could then task the person(s) responsible for your social media to ensure that they are fully conversant and compliant by that date. Facebook has a full help centre to assist with this. Equally so, you could choose to remove the feed and instead just link to your social media until such time that you were confident that your social media is compliant.
You must remember, whatever your council decide is the purpose that these regulations exist is to remove barriers and increase inclusion within our communities, rather than develop a punitive system of compliance. You can read more about complying with WCAG2.1aa here.