What are the specific legal obligations for UK businesses regarding the accessibility of their websites?

11 June 2024

As a business operating in the United Kingdom, you may be aware that you have certain legal obligations regarding the accessibility of your website. But what exactly are these obligations? And what does 'accessibility' actually mean in this context? In this article, we’ll explore these questions in detail, providing you with a comprehensive understanding of your responsibilities in this digital age.

Legal Landscape in the UK

Following the ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2009, the UK government has made a number of legislative adjustments to protect and enhance the rights of people with disabilities. This includes ensuring that they have equal access to information and services on the internet.

Equality Act 2010

In the UK, the primary piece of legislation relating to website accessibility is the Equality Act 2010. This law replaced the Disability Discrimination Act of 1995, providing a more comprehensive legal framework. It stipulates that businesses must not discriminate against individuals with disabilities. This includes ensuring that their websites are accessible to all, regardless of any physical or cognitive impairments that a person may have.

The Equality Act applies to all service providers, regardless of their size or the sector they operate in. Thus, even a small business with a simple website is not exempt from these requirements.

Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No. 2) Accessibility Regulations 2018

Besides the Equality Act, public sector organizations have additional accessibility obligations under these regulations. Public sector bodies include central and local government organizations, as well as certain NGOs that perform public functions or offer services that are usually performed by the government.

Under these regulations, public sector bodies must ensure that their websites (and mobile applications) are accessible. They must adhere to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 level AA as a minimum, and publish an Accessibility Statement explaining how they meet these requirements.

Understanding Website Accessibility

Website accessibility is about making sure that everyone, including those with disabilities, can use your website effectively. This means that the content of your website should be perceivable, operable, understandable and robust.


This means that information on your website should be presented in ways that users can perceive. This could mean providing text alternatives for non-text content, providing captions and other alternatives for multimedia, and making it easier for users to see and hear content.


Your website must be navigable and usable. This might involve making sure that all functionality can be accessed from a keyboard, giving users enough time to read and use content, and not designing content in a way that is likely to cause seizures.


The information and operation of the interface must be understandable. This might involve making text readable and understandable, making web pages appear and operate in predictable ways, and helping users avoid and correct mistakes.


As content is interpreted by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies, it needs to be robust enough to be interpreted reliably. This might involve maximizing compatibility with current and future user tools.

Meeting Legal Requirements

Meeting these legal requirements doesn’t have to be difficult or time-consuming. In fact, many of the requirements of the WCAG 2.1 level AA can be met fairly easily with some small changes to your website design and content.

Conducting an Accessibility Audit

To begin with, you may want to conduct an accessibility audit of your website to identify any areas that need improvement. There are a number of automated tools available online that can help with this.

Training and Education

Ensuring that your team is educated about accessibility and understands the importance of it is also a crucial step. This might involve providing training about what accessibility is and why it matters, as well as guidance on how to create accessible content.

Regular Review and Updates

Accessibility isn’t something that you can do once and then forget about - it requires ongoing attention and maintenance. Regularly reviewing and updating your website to ensure it remains accessible is an important part of meeting your legal obligations.

While we’ve covered a lot of ground in this article, it’s important to remember that this is just a brief overview of the legal obligations for UK businesses regarding website accessibility. Always consult with a legal expert or an accessibility consultant to make sure you are fully compliant with all relevant laws and regulations.

Accessibility in Practice: How to Make Your Website Accessible

When it comes to making your website accessible, there are a number of practical steps you can take.

Implementing Visual Aids

Firstly, you should make efforts to accommodate users with visual impairments. This includes providing alternative text for images and utilizing high-contrast colours for readability. Users with colour blindness may struggle with certain colour combinations, so it's important to be mindful of this when designing your website.

Enhancing Keyboard Navigation

Keyboard navigation is particularly crucial for individuals who cannot use a mouse. All main features of your website, including links, buttons, and forms, should be accessible using just the keyboard. This can be achieved by using ‘tab’ for navigation and ‘enter’ for selection.

Providing Clear Instructions

For users with cognitive disabilities, clear instructions are paramount. Keep language simple and straightforward, and always provide clear directions on how to use your website's features. Where possible, use diagrams or other visual aids to accompany written instructions.

Offering Flexible Time Limits

Some users may require more time to read or interact with your website. Offering flexible time limits or the ability to disable time limits entirely will ensure that these users aren't disadvantaged.

By implementing these practical measures, you can ensure that your website is accessible to all users, thereby fulfilling your legal obligations under the Equality Act 2010.


In conclusion, the legal requirements for website accessibility in the UK are extensive but necessary to ensure equality for all users, including those with disabilities. By understanding and implementing these requirements, businesses can ensure they are compliant with the law and are providing services that are accessible to all.

It starts with understanding the importance of accessibility and the legal landscape that governs it. Then, businesses should conduct an accessibility audit and implement changes, provide training to their teams, and conduct regular reviews. Practical measures such as implementing visual aids, enhancing keyboard navigation, providing clear instructions, and offering flexible time limits are also critical to ensure accessibility.

Remember, accessibility is not a one-time effort but an ongoing commitment. It's about creating a digital environment where everyone, regardless of their physical or cognitive abilities, can access and use the services as intended. In doing so, businesses not only comply with the law but also contribute to a more inclusive digital world.