Inclusive Digital Services
To “build trust in digital services” we must “ensure that they are accessible and inclusive for everyone”. Our head of Industry Technology and Innovation, Robert McLaren told the Science and Technology Select Committee. Robert was called to give evidence to an ongoing inquiry into the way the government provide services online.
In a colloquy with the committee chair, the Rt Hon Norman Lamb MP, Robert explained that “universal design principles” make websites easier to use for everyone and praised the Cabinet Offices’ Government Services Team for embracing this approach to make major strides in accessibility. The new web accessibility regulations can help bring usability to the whole public sector, including local government, education and the NHS. But Robert warned that this will only be possible if the regulations are enforced effectively:
We have had the Equality Act for a while. It requires reasonable adjustments and digital accessibility. What has not been there with the Equality Act is enforcement, in a way that is a usable process for the citizen. It has relied far too much on people taking bodies to court.
Drawing on research carried out with the APPGAT, Robert told the committee that users themselves need a voice in the enforcement process. Yet the government’s proposed enforcement mechanism “appears to be quite complex, involving a number of different organisations” and “It is not clear that that system is going to cohere into something that is really usable for somebody making a complaint about a public sector website”. Robert advanced the APPGAT's recommendation for “an ombudsperson-type enforcement mechanism” so that anyone can take a complaint directly to the enforcement body, recommended, and called for “further public scrutiny” of the government’s current plans.
New accessibility technologies and rising public awareness give us a fantastic opportunity to make change the will improve the experience for everyone who uses public services, and we are continuing to engage with parliament and government to ensure that policy frameworks support this agenda.