Understanding accessibility

Making a website or mobile app accessible means making sure it can be used by as many people as possible

At least 1 in 5 people in the UK have a long-term illness, impairment or disability. This includes people with:

  • impaired vision
  • motor difficulties
  • cognitive impairments or learning disabilities
  • deafness or impaired hearing

Assistive technologies

Accessibility means making content clear and simple enough so that most people can understand it whilst presenting it in a way that supports people who need extra help.

For example, someone with impaired vision might use a screen reader (software that lets a user navigate a website and 'reads out' the content), braille display or screen magnifier. Or someone with motor difficulties might use a special mouse, speech recognition software or on-screen keyboard emulator.

If content is accessible, software and technology designed to help people read web pages will have no problem following what you have written.

Why making things accessible is important

People may not have a choice when using our website or documents to find out information or use our services, so it's important they work for everyone. The people who need it most are often the people who find it hardest to use.

Accessible websites and documents work better for everyone. They are generally faster, easier to use and appear higher in search rankings.

Accessibility is about making sure web content can be used by as many people as possible. It doesn't just help users with specific needs. Making things accessible benefits our entire audience by helping them read our content quickly and get all the information they need.

Common problems include:

  • websites that are not easy to use on a mobile or cannot be navigated using a keyboard
  • inaccessible PDFs that cannot be read out on screen readers
  • poor colour contrast that makes text difficult to read - especially for visually impaired people

Meeting accessibility requirements

The accessibility regulations came into force for public sector bodies on 23 September 2018. They say you must make your website or mobile app more accessible by making it "perceivable, operable, understandable and robust". We also have to include and update an accessibility statement on our website.

The full name of the accessibility regulations is the Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No. 2) Accessibility Regulations 2018 .

The accessibility regulations build on our existing obligations to people who have a disability under the Equality Act 2010 . These say that all UK service providers must consider 'reasonable adjustments' for disabled people.

For example, somebody might ask for information in an alternative, accessible format , like large print or an audio recording. There are a number of factors that determine what makes something a 'reasonable' adjustment .

We will be breaking the law if our public sector website or mobile app does not meet accessibility requirements.

Mobile apps

Accessibility regulations cover public sector mobile apps developed for use by the public. These regulations cover areas such as the public sector body using bespoke app choices of functionality, or branding.

Outsourced websites

Both the external website and our internal sites are covered by these regulations. We are also responsible for ensuring that any websites we outsource to external suppliers meet the accessibility requirements .

You are legally responsible for your website meeting accessibility requirements, even if you've outsourced your website to a supplier.

How to meet accessibility requirement

Our websites will meet the new regulations if we:

Monitoring and enforcing accessibility requirements

The Government Digital Service (GDS) monitors public sector websites on behalf of the Minister for the Cabinet Office by examining a sample every year. They can ask for information and request access to intranets, extranets or any public sector website. From June 2021, GDS will also check mobile applications published by public sector bodies.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) enforces the requirements in England. If we do not meet them, or fail to provide a satisfactory response to requests to produce information in an accessible format, we will be failing to make reasonable adjustments. This means the EHRC and ECNI can use their legal powers, including investigations, unlawful act notices and court action.

Our users can also raise accessibility issues with us, using the contact details in our accessibility statement. We must provide a response within 20 working days. If the user is not happy with our response, they can get help from the Equality Advisory and Support Service (EASS) . If the user feels the issue has still not been resolved, they can appeal to the EHRC.

You can find out more about understanding accessibility requirements for public sector bodies.

Making sure your content is accessible

Follow these steps when you write and publish content as well as the other advice in GOV.UK - Content design: planning, writing and managing content .

Choose the right format

Publish as a webpage

We publish as much content as possible as web pages. Where appropriate, for example with policy or strategy documents, we offer an accessible PDF. We prioritise publication as a web page because publishing content only as PDFs:

  • can make it difficult to find, maintain and use
  • does not work well with assistive technologies, such as screen readers
  • makes it difficult to navigate on a mobile device

Style your document

Headings in Microsoft Word

Use the styles built into Microsoft Word, rather than manually changing the size of the text or making it bold.

Use the ribbon (or toolbar) in Microsoft Word to style headings in order as Heading 1 and Heading 2. Heading 1 is for the heading of a section, Heading 2 is for a heading within a section. (There should only be one Heading 1 in a document)


Keep the language simple

Use clear and simple language

Simple language makes your document accessible to people with cognitive impairments and learning disabilities.

Research shows that most users prefer simple language, including specialist audiences. This helps them to understand and process information quickly.

Where you need to use technical terms, abbreviations or acronyms, explain what they mean the first time you use them.


Less is more

Users with low literacy can struggle to:

  • identify the main points in large blocks of text
  • concentrate on reading for long periods of time
  • retain the information they're reading as they read it

You can help people of all literacy levels understand what they need to know by:

  • only including content that meets a specific user need
  • organising information into manageable chunks
  • using bullet points to break up long lists

Accessible links (hyperlinks)

Prioritise hyperlinks

  • if tasks are fulfilled by following links, place the links above descriptive copy - hyperlink headings where relevant.
  • in e-newsletters - links are tracked for reports, telling us what people find useful - so please remember to include some as calls to action.

Give hyperlinks meaningful names

  • don't use 'Click here'
  • don't use the address that is linked to as the hyperlink text, eg www.kirklees.gov.uk
  • give your links the same name as the page/page section that they link to.
  • For instance:
    • if you link to a page called 'Apprenticeships' then write your hyperlink as Apprenticeships

Don't link to the same location using two different link terms

  • if you follow the above rule you shouldn't encounter this problem.
  • For instance:
    • don't link to the Apprenticeships page once using this link text Apprenticeships and elsewhere on the same page use this link text Find apprenticeships

Don't link to different locations using the same link text

  • again, if you follow the first link rule you shouldn't encounter this.
  • For instance:
    • don't link to one page using link text Advice and elsewhere on the same page use the same link text Advice to point to a completely different page.

Do not use FAQs

FAQs are strongly discouraged on the Kirklees Council website. If you write content by starting with user needs, you will not need to use FAQs

FAQs are discouraged because they:

  • duplicate other content on the site
  • cannot be front-loaded (putting the most important words people will search for), which makes usability difficult
  • are usually not frequently asked questions by the public, but important information dumped by the content editor
  • mean that content is not where people expect to find it; it needs to be in context
  • can add to search results with duplicate, competing text

If your call-centres get questions that really are frequently asked, get in touch with the web team and we will help find a way to take care of those user needs.

Use alt text for images

Alternative text, or alt text

Is read out by screen readers or displayed if an image does not load or if images have been switched off.

All images, except decorative images, must have alt text that:

  • tells people what information the image provides
  • describes the content and function of the image
  • is specific, meaningful and concise

Use normal punctuation, like commas and full stops, so the text is easy to read and understand.

Do not

  • include the name of the photographer or person who created the image, unless it is required in the terms of use
  • start with 'Image of', 'Graphic of' or 'Photo of'
  • repeat information from the page
  • include extra information not on the page

Check the colour contrast images and text

Make your tables accessible

Only use tables as a way of presenting data. You should not use tables as a way of formatting text on the page, because it is not accessible and can make information more difficult to understand.

If you use tables:

  • give them a title and give rows and columns a header so users can find, navigate and understand tables.
  • add a caption which describes the information so users can understand what the table is showing.

Check your document is accessible

Accessibility checker tool

Using the accessibility checker tool - The checker assists with finding accessibility errors in Word, PowerPoint, and Excel.

Although the checker can find a variety of issues, it cannot find every possible error.

If you get a clean bill from the accessibility checker, you still need to manually check the Heading structure and make sure links use descriptive hyperlink text.


Document properties

Document properties and meta data

All documents published on the Kirklees website must have their document properties filled in.

Document properties, also known as metadata, are details about a file that describe or identify it. They include details such as title, author name, subject, and keywords that identify the document's topic or contents in search results.

The document owner, or the agency which produced the document, is responsible for filling the document properties in.


Accessible PDFs: Create and verify PDF accessibility (Acrobat Pro)

Acrobat tools make it easy to create accessible PDFs and check the accessibility of existing PDFs. You can create PDFs to meet common accessibility standards, such as Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 and PDF/UA (Universal Access, or ISO 14289).

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