The UK Public Sector (Websites and Mobile Apps) Accessibility Regulations (PSAR) came into effect in 2018, following the approval of a 2016 Directive from the European Union (EU). In 2022, an amendment to the PSAR was released to address changes brought about by the UK's departure from the EU in 2020.
UK Government regulations replace EU legislation
The amendment revokes what is known as "retained direct EU legislation". This means that references like the following have been removed from the PSAR:
(a)Commission Implementing Decision (EU) 2018/1523 of 11 October 2018 establishing a model accessibility statement in accordance with Directive (EU) 2016/2102 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the accessibility of the websites and mobile applications of public sector bodies
In each case, the revoked legislation has been replaced by an equivalent from the UK Government. For example, Regulation 3 (where "model accessibility statement" is defined) now states that it will be published electronically by the Minister for the Cabinet Office.
WCAG replaces EN 301 549
The most significant change is to Regulation 9, which used to cite EN 301 549 as the accessibility standard websites and apps were required to meet. Regulation 9 now references the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) directly.
EN 301 549 is essentially WCAG 2.1 with a few small tweaks, so this may not seem like much of a change at first. That is until you consider the way Regulation 9 is phrased:
“9. A website or mobile application of a public sector body will be presumed to be in conformity with the accessibility requirement to the extent that the website or mobile application conforms to Level A and AA Success Criteria as set out in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines recommended by the World Wide Web Consortium, as amended from time to time
It's the last phrase that is important. It means the PSAR no longer reference a specific version of WCAG but instead reference the current version of WCAG - which, as of 5 October 2023, is WCAG 2.2 which introduces several new Success Criteria (SC).
UK Government monitoring replaces EU monitoring
In the last bit of retained direct EU legislation to be removed from the PSAR, the Cabinet Office approach to accessibility monitoring replaces the EU "monitoring methodology and the arrangements for reporting" that were referenced in the PSAR before the 2022 amendment.
Amongst other things, the Cabinet Office approach says there will be a transition period of 12 months before the Cabinet Office will begin monitoring public sector websites and apps for conformance with WCAG 2.2. Until October 2024, WCAG 2.1 Level AA remains the standard required by the PSAR.
In summary the Public Sector (Websites and Apps) Accessibility Regulations no longer reference EU legislation. However, the substance of the PSAR remain largely unchanged for now: the model accessibility template is the same as its EU predecessor; the accessibility monitoring and reporting methodology is the same; and even the required accessibility standard remains, to all intents and purposes, the same - at least until October 2024.
For more information about the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, read our WCAG primer we also have a Getting started with WCAG 2.2 instructor-led training course as well as other courses in accessible web and mobile development and design.
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