Everyone needs to know - How to make digital services accessible

Our approach to accessibility.

Consider accessibility at every stage

Think about how you are going to address accessibility at the beginning and at every stage of your project.

It's much harder to make a service accessible if you only address it later on.

Making your service accessible: an introduction (GOV.UK service manual) explains what to do at different stages.

Make it the whole team's responsibility

Every member of the team should contribute to making your service inclusive.

You should all:

  • have a good understanding of accessibility
  • observe research with people with access needs
  • follow the guidance for your role

Research with users with access needs

Involve people with access needs, including disabled people, in every round of user research.

Consider cognitive and physical impairments, visual impairments, and temporary or permanent access needs.

Follow our guidance on user research.

Use progressive enhancement

Progressive enhancement is about making your page work with just HTML, before adding anything else like cascading style sheets (CSS) and Javascript. That helps people who live in areas with slow connections or whose devices or browsers fail to load or recognise something.

The NHS.UK frontend library uses JavaScript for "enhancement" – as an extra. It works without it.

See Building a resilient frontend using progressive enhancement (GOV.UK service manual).

Follow NHS accessibility guidance

Use this accessibility guidance to get started.

For more detail, follow the NHS accessibility checklist. The checklist contains:

  • a full list of WCAG 2.2 success criteria and guidance for levels A and AA that NHS websites and public mobile apps need to conform to
  • some success criteria and best practice to improve accessibility for level AAA

Test throughout and consider an independent audit

An expert audit can help find accessibility problems with your service and make sure it meets accessibility requirements. If you run your own tests regularly, the audit should find very little that needs changing.

Follow our guidance on testing and our guidance on monitoring and recording accessibility testing (for product and delivery managers).

Find out about getting an accessibility audit (GOV.UK service manual).

Help us improve this guidance

Share insights or feedback and take part in the discussion. We use GitHub as a collaboration space. All the information on it is open to the public.

Read more about how to feedback or share insights.

If you have any questions, get in touch with the service manual team.

Updated: January 2024