Today, on day 17 of our Tech for Good reality checks Christmas countdown series, we're spotlighting a critical issue that often gets overlooked: the failure of many public sector websites to meet basic accessibility standards.
First and foremost, what is the Public Sector Bodies Act and why should we care about it? Imagine trying to access vital public services online – like applying for housing, scheduling healthcare appointments, or even just checking when bin day is – but finding the website completely unusable due to accessibility barriers. This isn't just an inconvenience; it's a denial of essential services.
The Public Sector Bodies Act was meant to represent a significant stride in the UK's commitment to digital inclusivity - instead, it ended up being more of a stumble. In theory, it required all public sector websites to meet WCAG accessibility standards by 2021.
However, a report published by NEC this year examined 1300 public body websites, including local authority, healthcare and housing websites. They found 'a gap in the accessibility of pages across all sectors', with one of the worst offenders being housing association websites. This example is particularly troubling, as disabled people are more likely to rent social housing and therefore need to interact with these inaccessible pages.
This is frustrating: what’s the point of the Public Sectors Bodies Act mandating these websites meet WCAG standards if there are no consequences to these failures for the offending organisations? This isn't just a technical failure - it's a blatant disregard for inclusivity. We feel it's totally unacceptable that in our digital age, essential public services are out of reach for those who need them most. Public services should be accessible to everyone. Accessibility isn't optional. It's a fundamental right.