Less than a third of websites and other digital services operated by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) comply with its legal accessibility obligations, according to an internal report obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. ‘information.
A DWP report shared internally in February 2022 shows that 36 of the 141 “live” digital services run by DWP are currently considered “very high risk”, and another 23 considered “high risk”.
These services include websites, mobile phone applications and software used by the department.
Of the 141 live services, 24 are expected to be “decommissioned”, but of the remaining 117, only 36 (31%) have been found to be in compliance with the regulations.
Of those used by benefit claimants and other members of the public, only 24 of 56 services (43%) are considered by the DWP to be compliant.
Figures for digital services used by DWP staff are even worse, with only 12 of 61 digital services (20%) reportedly compliant with the Public Sector Bodies Accessibility Regulations 2018.
The regulations came into force in September 2018, more than three and a half years ago.
They say public bodies need to make their websites and mobile apps “perceivable, usable, understandable and robust.”
It’s unclear in what way DWP’s websites, apps, and software fail to meet the department’s legal obligations, as the department has so far only provided a brief summary of reports requested by Disability. News Service (DNS).
But Cabinet Office advice says: ‘People may not have a choice when using a public sector website or mobile app, so it’s important that it works for everyone.
“The people who need them the most are often the ones who find them the most difficult to use.”
The guidance says common problems include websites that are not easy to use on a mobile phone or cannot be viewed using a keyboard, inaccessible PDF forms that cannot be read by screen readers and poor color contrast that makes text difficult to read.
It also warns, “You risk breaking the law if your public sector website or mobile app doesn’t meet accessibility requirements.”
And he adds: “All public sector websites and mobile apps should now be accessible.”
Last night the Central Digital and Data Office – part of the Cabinet Office – which is responsible for monitoring how public bodies comply with regulations on behalf of the Cabinet Office, declined to answer questions about the DWP’s failures.
He declined to say whether he previously knew how many DWP digital services failed to comply with regulations, what steps he took to ensure DWP met its legal obligations, and whether he was concerned about DWP’s performance.
The reports were sent to the DNS by DWP in response to a freedom of information request.
In its response, DWP said: “DWP is prioritizing our digital customer-facing services, alongside replacing our aging IT systems, allowing us to create services that are accessible by default, but we know there is still a lot to do.
“Despite the effects of the pandemic, we have made significant progress in this area over the past 12 months.
“We are constantly working to improve our processes and services, including improving the skills of our staff and establishing a culture that prioritizes accessibility across the department. »
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