Maidstone Digital Service
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The new standards

The new accessibility regulations that came into force for public sector bodies on 23 September 2018, say we must make our website or mobile app more accessible by making it ‘perceivable, operable, understandable and robust’.

The regulations apply to all online content including documents (PDF, Word, PowerPoint, Excel) and it means that we must adapt and re-publish all our online material, in order to meet the new regulations within the given timeframe:

  • All documents published from September 2018 must be fully compliant.
  • All documents published before September 2018 must be fully compliant by September 2020.

Beyond the ‘regulatory’ accessibility requirements, we also have a responsibility to ensure any documents we publish are:

  • in the best possible format and layout, in order to provide the same functionality and comfort of reading across all media (responsive)
  • are always current and up to date
  • have a good chance to be discovered through search engines and links

We can not publish any documents from now on if they do not meet the required guidelines

Content Format

Wherever possible (and that should be the majority of times), your documents should be published as an HTML webpage. It’s the best way to reach as many people as possible and maintain excellent user experience throughout the full range of devices and screen sizes.

Documents like PDFs make your content harder to find, use and maintain. It can be difficult for users to customise them for ease of reading, and often they do not work very well with assistive technologies like screen readers.

The default should be to create all content in HTML. If you can’t avoid publishing a PDF, ideally it should be in addition to an HTML version and the PDF must meet accessibility standards and archiving standards.

The Problem with PDFs

  • They do not change size to fit the browser
  • They’re not designed for reading on screens
  • It’s harder to track their use
  • They cause difficulties for navigation and orientation
  • They can be hard for some users to access
  • They’re less likely to be kept up to date
  • They’re hard to reuse

The Government Digital Service page Why GOV.UK content should be published in HTML and not PDF explains in depth the problems with PDFs as well as the misconceptions of why people prefer them.

What do I need to do?

You need to ensure that the documents you submit for publication on are compliant with the new regulations/requirements.

Through the chapters of this article you will find step-by-step guides, templates and checklists to help you understand what is needed, as well as implementing it.

It is also important to remember that we are solely responsible for published material that has been produced by third parties under our commission (1). They will need to follow the guidelines (under your instructions) in the same way, much as a designing third party would be producing material within our branding guidelines.

(1) Third-party content that is neither funded nor developed by us, nor under our control is excluded from these regulations. In other words, user-contributed content such as documents that are voluntarily submitted to support comments in a consultation e.g. responses to the Draft Local Plan consultation.

Digital Services

The Digital Service team at Maidstone Borough Council lead on the research, design and development of user centered services for residents in Maidstone

Find out more about the team

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