European Union (Accessibility of Websites and Mobile Applications of Public Sector Bodies) Regulations 2020
Public bodies in Ireland must ensure their websites and mobile apps are accessible to all people, including persons with disabilities.
The European Union (Accessibility of Websites and Mobile Applications of Public Sector Bodies) Regulations 2020 came into force on 23 September 2020.
The full name of the 2020 Regulations is “S.I. No. 358/2020 - European Union (Accessibility of Websites and Mobile Applications of Public Sector Bodies) Regulations 2020”. The 2020 Regulations give effect to the EU “Directive (EU) 2016/2102 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 October 2016 on the accessibility of the websites and mobile applications of public sector bodies”. This is known as the Web Accessibility Directive.
The 2020 Regulations build on existing obligations to make websites and services offered to the public under the Disability Act 2005 and the Code of Practice on Accessibility of Public Services and Information provided by Public Bodies.
Under the 2020 Regulations, public sector bodies in Ireland are required to make their websites and mobile applications (apps) accessible by ensuring they meet the 4 principles of accessibility; Perceivable, Operable, Understandable and Robust (POUR principles).
Meeting the Accessibility requirements
Public sector bodies comply with the 2020 Regulations if for all websites and mobile apps they:
- Meet the relevant parts of the harmonised European standard EN 301 549 V2.1.2 (2018-08). This is the same as meeting all the Level AA Success Criteria from the international guidelines WCAG 2.1.
- Publish and maintain an Accessibility Statement about their websites or mobile apps.
Scope of bodies and content covered
The 2020 Regulations apply to most public sector bodies.
The 2020 Regulations do not apply to websites and mobile apps of public service broadcasters or any other body fulfilling a public service broadcasting remit. They do not apply to websites and mobile apps of certain types of non-governmental organisations (NGOs), which the Regulations state are NGOs “that do not provide services that are essential to the public, or services that specifically address the needs of, or are meant for, persons with disabilities.”
The 2020 Regulations apply to most types of content including; office file formats (Word, Powerpoint and PDF documents), videos, forms, as well as intranets, extranets and their contents.
Some types of content are exempt, such as live media and maps that are not used for navigational purposes. Exemptions also apply to some types of content published before a particular date:
- office file formats published before 23 September 2018, unless, as stated in the 2020 Regulations, “such content is needed for active administrative processes relating to the tasks performed by the public sector body concerned”
- pre-recorded time-based media published before 23 September 2020. This could include videos or audio recording of events
- content of websites and mobile applications qualifying as archives
- third party content that is not funded by or under the control of the public sector body - for example, social media ‘like’ buttons
- online reproductions of items in heritage collections that cannot be made fully accessible
- content on intranets or extranets published before 23 September 2019 until such websites undergo a substantial revision
- content of websites and mobile applications qualifying as archives, meaning that they only contain content that is neither needed for active administrative processes nor updated or edited after 23 September 2019.
As of September 2020, public bodies’ websites covered by the 2020 Regulations should now be accessible.
Public sector mobile apps must be accessible by 23 June 2021.
Complaints and redress
The Accessibility Statement must provide contact details to allow a member of the public to make a complaint about the accessibility of the website or mobile app.
The Accessibility Statement must also contain a link to the complaints and redress mechanism of either the Equal Status Act 2000 (No. 8 of 2000) or the Disability Act 2005 (No. 14 of 2005), or both depending on the status of the public body.
Advice on making a complaint under the Disability Act is available on the website of the Office of the Ombudsman.
Advice on making a complaint under the Equal Status Act is available on the website of the Workplace Relations Commission.
The role of the National Disability Authority
The 2020 Regulations name the National Disability Authority as the national monitoring body for the purposes of the Directive and these Regulations.
NDA is required to:
- periodically monitor the compliance of websites and mobile applications of public sector bodies with the accessibility requirements outlined above
- submit a report to the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment on the outcome of the monitoring carried out. The report will include information on the use of the complaint and redress provisions referred to above. The report will be made publicly available in an accessible format.
The scope of the websites and mobile apps to be monitored by NDA and the type of review to be carried out is outlined in Commission Implementing Decision (EU) 2018/1524.
The POUR accessibility principles are taken from the Web Accessibility Guidelines 2.1 from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). The WCAG 2.1 guidelines and Success Criteria are organized around the POUR principles, which lay the foundation necessary for anyone to access and use a website or mobile app. Anyone who wants to use a website or mobile app must have content that is:
- Perceivable - Information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive.
- This means that users must be able to perceive the information being presented (it can't be invisible to all of their senses)
- Operable - User interface components and navigation must be operable.
- This means that users must be able to operate the interface (the interface cannot require interaction that a user cannot perform)
- Understandable - Information and the operation of user interface must be understandable.
- This means that users must be able to understand the information as well as the operation of the user interface (the content or operation cannot be beyond their understanding)
- Robust - Content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies.
- This means that users must be able to access the content as technologies advance (as technologies and user agents evolve, the content should remain accessible)
The 2020 Regulations require that public bodies prepare and regularly update a detailed, comprehensive and clear accessibility statement on the compliance of their websites and mobile applications with the Regulations.
The Accessibility statement must be available in an accessible format and be based on the model accessibility statement contained in Commission Implementing Decision (EU) 2018/1523.
The Accessibility Statement must include:
- A Statement of Commitment of the public body to making its websites and mobile apps accessible
- The Compliance Status of the public sector bodies website and mobile apps with the standards described above
- A description of any content of the website or mobile application that is not accessible, the reasons for that inaccessibility and, where appropriate, any accessible alternatives provided,
- a feedback mechanism to enable any person to:
- notify the public sector body concerned of any failure of any of its websites or mobile applications to comply with the accessibility requirements
- request information in relation to those parts of the content that is inaccessible
- a link to the redress or complaint provisions, or both, as the case may be, of the Equal Status Act 2000 (No. 8 of 2000) and the Disability Act 2005 (No. 14 of 2005).
Guidance available from the Centre for Excellence in Universal Design
The NDA’s Centre for Excellence in Universal Design provides the following guidance on the accessibility and Universal Design of websites and mobile apps: