GDS is responsible for monitoring the accessibility of public sector websites.

Public sector websites include:

  • Local councils and parish councils
  • Central government departments
  • Most NHS organisations
  • Most universities and colleges
  • some charities and other non-government organisations

Charities and non-government organisations are public sector bodies if:

  • they’re mostly funded by public funding
  • they provide essential services to the public
  • they’re aimed at disabled people

Here are some of the common questions on:

  • how to make a complaint about an inaccessible public sector website
  • why it’s important to share your feedback
  • what happens when you do feedback

Making an accessibility complaint: frequently asked questions

Why should I complain if the accessibility barrier I’m experiencing only affects a few people?

Everyone should be able to access public services easily online. In the UK, at least 1 in 5 people have a long-term illness, impairment or condition. Many more will experience a temporary or situational impairment. More people may share your accessibility issue than you think.

Your feedback helps website owners understand how to improve the experience for users.  It can help make access to online public services better for everyone.

The Government Digital Service (GDS) is committed to investigating accessibility issues. And then working with website owners to resolve them. Feedback from people who use those public services is a valuable way to help make that happen.

How long should I wait to hear back from the organisation I’m making a complaint about?

After you report a problem, the organisation should answer within a reasonable time. The amount of time will depend on the organisation but you should expect a reply within 28 days unless otherwise specified. They should tell you what action they will take and when.

Organisations are allowed some time to fix a problem if it’s difficult or costly. If it’s a smaller organisation, or the issue is complex, it may take longer to get a reply.

Reporting an accessibility problem on a public sector website (GOV.UK)

What if I do not get a reply from the organisation or I cannot contact them?

You can get advice from:

  • the Equality Advice Support Service (EASS)
  • the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland (ECNI)

You can do this if:

  • an organisation does not contact you after a reasonable amount of time
  • you need support to contact them

Our guide to making an accessibility complaint explains how to contact the EASS and ECNI.

What is the EASS? How is it different from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)?

The EASS is the Equality Advisory and Support Service, they can:

  • offer advice to people about their rights
  • manage complaints in England, Wales or Scotland
  • help you to escalate your complaint
  • have the power to forward your complaint to the Government Digital Service (GDS) and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to review

The EHRC is an independent statutory body with responsibility for:

  • encouraging equality and diversity
  • eliminating unlawful discrimination
  • protecting and promoting the human rights of everyone in England, Scotland and Wales.

The EHRC has legal powers to fix the problem. If the Equality Advisory and Support Service forward your complaint to the EHRC, they can help you take further action.

I live in Northern Ireland, who can support my complaint?

The Equality Commission for Northern Ireland (ECNI) can support your complaint. They can give you advice on your rights and take further action if needed.

What if an organisation’s mobile app is not accessible?

23 June 2021 is the deadline for mobile applications or “apps” to be accessible. This deadline is set out in the accessibility regulations.

The Government Digital Service (GDS) is currently working with public sector organisations on their apps. GDS is making sure they have the tools and information to make their mobile apps accessible by the deadline.

I want to make a discrimination case about inaccessible online services. I cannot afford lawyers or legal aid, is there any support for me?

If you cannot afford lawyers or legal aid, you can get advice and support by contacting:

Our guide How to complain about inaccessible public sector websites explains how.

I use a screen reader and have contacted an organisation that uses PDFs to ask for an accessible version. They said the PDF was a report they commissioned, so they have no control over it.

If the organisation paid for the report it is responsible for making sure:

  • the document meets the regulations
  • that an accessible version is available

If it’s very costly or time-consuming to do that, this is called a “disproportionate burden” (this is where it would be very costly or time consuming for the organisation to do this).

Even if this happens, there should be a way of making sure that the information can reach its audience.

More resources on the accessibility complaints process

Find more guidance on GOV.UK about how to make a complaint.

Produced in partnership between Scope and the Government Digital Service.