Accessibility of public sector websites and apps: Complete our survey!

By Angela Matthews

Business Disability Forum are seeking your views on Government Digital Service’s consultation on the EU Directive that requires public sector bodies to have accessible websites and apps, coming into force on 23 September 2018.

What does the Directive say?

Public sector bodies need to ensure that their websites and apps fulfil the following criteria:

  • They should abide by the POUR principles (Perceivable,  Operable, Understandable, Robust – further information on this here).
  • They should publish an accessibility statement:
    • listing the parts of the site/app that are not accessible (and why they are not accessible);
    • the option to give feedback on  the accessibility (for example, where an accessibility function is not working); and
    • a link to a ‘complaints’ procedure.
  • They should publish accessibility information of an app on third party app stores (such as Apple App Store or Google Play).

Public sector bodies are required to only action what does not cause “disproportionate burden” to them.

When do public sectors need to comply?

Current public sector websites and apps are required to comply with these changes from 23 September 2020. Public sectors websites that are created after 23 September 2018 need to comply with these changes from 23 September 2019.

What do you think?

Business Disability Forum is forming a response to this consultation. As the voice of business on disability inclusion, we always consult our Members, Partners, strategic alliances, and disabled stakeholders to inform our policy decisions. Inclusive technology remains a key focus for us at Business Disability Forum and we work with hundreds of organisations in the UK and across the globe to support businesses to produce products, services, policies, and practices that increase opportunities and remove barriers for disabled people.

Tell us what your think via our anonymous online survey (via Survey Monkey): Go to survey.

Or email

The deadline for responses is 9am on Friday 25 May 2018. Please note the very tight deadline!

Developing a global disability strategy at Accenture

Barbara Harvey, Accenture

Barbara Harvey, Accenture

By Barbara Harvey, Managing Director, Accenture Research, and UK Mental Health Sponsor

For International Women’s Day this year Accenture undertook a piece of  research (published as ‘When She Rises, We All Rise’)  that started out as a project about women but ended up as a project about inclusion. We looked at the workplace cultures of over 22,000 working men and women in 31 countries around the world. We were able to look at the differences between those that worked in very inclusive environments and those that worked in the least inclusive environments and the difference was astonishing.


In the most inclusive environments, we found that men and women were much more likely to love their jobs. They were much more likely to be happier with the pace of their careers and less likely to be planning to leave. They were much more likely to aspire to be in senior leadership and most importantly they were much more likely to advance to senior manager levels in their organisations – women four times as likely and men twice as likely. It turns out that a positive workplace culture works for everyone, but especially for those who are in the minority in the workplace.

The need to retain and grow great people is one of the reasons why our CEO Pierre Nanterme stated his personal ambition for Accenture to be the world’s most inclusive and diverse workplace by 2020. He is not doing that just out of the kindness of his heart. Although, believe me, his heart is there too. He is doing it because it’s a business imperative for us to do it.

With over 440,000 employees worldwide we need talent. We need diverse talent because we need to innovate every single day and you don’t innovate by having a workplace full of the same people. So, Pierre’s passion to create an inclusive workplace extends across every aspect of inclusion that you can possibly imagine. Our research tells us you have to start with three things, you have to:

  1. Make it a strategic priority
  2. Set targets,
  3. Put metrics in place to track progress

You also have to have a leadership team that is accountable for delivering against those targets. So strategic priority, yes, it is.

city01In the context of disability inclusion Accenture has established a global accessibility council. That council includes senior members of our organisation who are responsible to the CEO for delivering against our plans. They have at their disposal a dashboard of metrics that allows them to measure how things are progressing. It includes everything from the culture in the organisation right through to the things like the accessibility of our own technology.

We also use a maturity index and that index allows us to look country by country at where we are on a maturity scale using five different measures: leadership, talent, accessibility, culture and ecosystem. It allows us to pinpoint in each geography what it is that we need to do next and that we need to prioritise something that is particularly important in the field of disability where countries are such different stages and where the local context can vary enormously. When it comes to mental health, our ambition is to make Accenture a place where it’s safe to talk about mental health. But how do you measure that? In the UK we are starting to explore this by using a survey that allow us to measure how willing our employees are to raise a concern about their mental health. Being a global company has tremendous power and brings responsibility and challenge. For example, our mental health programme started in the UK where we now have over 1500 mental health allies fully trained. But the question was how to bring what we do here to the rest of our organisation?

Visitor arriving at reception of an officeWell, it started with an opportunity to present what we were doing in the UK on mental health through an award scheme. We have a global inclusion and diversity award scheme which is designed to help best practice from around the world to bubble up to the surface. Our team were lucky enough to win that award last year and since then we have set about rolling out our mental health programme to countries around the world.  Nine more countries are already up and running  with more to follow.

People often ask how we know whether our programme is working and what metric we have for success, but for me it’s about the individual people whose lives we touch. One small example, following an LGBT discussion on mental health, a young gay man told us  that he was seriously worried about his partner who was living in Latin America and who was experiencing severe depression and possibly at a point where he was thinking of taking his own life. How do you get to someone in a country where it’s illegal to be gay?

So, we used our network to put him in touch with a confidential therapist who helped him talk through the situation he was in. That’s the power of a global organisation – to make the workplace a safe place for all people whatever the local context. But with that power comes with tremendous responsibility to make sure that we take the best of what we do wherever it bubbles up in the world and make it relevant in every single country.

The case for a single standard of accessibility and how your organisation can build one


By Neil Milliken, Atos – Member of Business Disability Forum’s Technology Taskforce

As a business with offices in numerous different countries, we needed a way to champion good practice and improvement in accessible technology beyond the UK.

Doing this stops different teams from pursuing accessibility in diverging ways and instead puts down a single standard for pursuing improvement in an objective way.

The question is how businesses can do it.

At Atos we found a way forward using the Business Disability Forum’s Accessibility Maturity Model (AMM) in 2016. As a member of Business Disability Forum’s Technology Taskforce, I had helped design and author the AMM, along with Barclays, GlaxoSmithKline, and government departments, so I knew it would work well for Atos.

The AMM is designed to establish a performance baseline for IT accessibility within an organisation. It sets out a series of accessibility requirements based on existing formal standards, and enables users to go beyond minimum compliance to bring greater benefits to their business.

assitive-technology-at-desk-e1522250696637The AMM provides what you could call a ‘passionate metric’ and truth-telling tool. It is based on evidence, using data from current work, but in presenting that evidence against set goals for improvement, it shows a way forward. This objective evidence is key in securing support for managers and senior leaders.

Meanwhile, the presentation of the model as a framework allows for continuous review. We did this every 6-12 months in each office where we ran the AMM, starting with the UK and moving on to the USA and then to Northern Europe.

By guiding teams through the use of the Model and securing the advocacy of senior champions, I was able to oversee continuous development to the point where accessibility became a given in development of IT.

The fact that the AMM is a best practice standard was a great help in taking it to other countries with other legislative environments. It takes the focus of conversations away from compliance towards good practice.

Aside from the formal framework, using the AMM is another way to ‘bang the drum’ for digital accessibility. It provides objective evidence and universal standards for teams to use.

Assitive-keyboardNow more and more companies are working across multiple countries, with different legal frameworks and requirements, there is great utility in having a single ‘standard’ based on best practice and business rewards. In the same way companies hoping to achieve standard practice across different teams in different offices or locations do well to put the emphasis on a single, widely used metric.

About the Accessibility Maturity Model (AMM)

The Accessibility Maturity Model is a management tool developed by Business Disability Forum’s Technology Taskforce, with contributions from Atos, Barclays, GlaxoSmithKline, HMRC and the Department of Work and Pensions.

The Model helps managers and IT teams to embed accessibility and inclusive design as standard practice.

More information about the Accessibility Maturity Model can be found on our website.

Disability needs to be on the agenda now

Diane Lightfoot

By Diane Lightfoot, Chief Executive Officer

On Wednesday 18 April, we were proud to hold our flagship annual conference, hosted at the Royal College of Nursing in central London and generously sponsored by Business Disability Forum Partner HSBC.

Our theme this year was “Disability in the modern workplace” – and we wanted to look at how we can seize the opportunities provided by technology and new ways of working to bring us closer to a world where disabled people, businesses and governments can work together without barriers.

So why did we pick this theme? We’re living – and working – in a world that is changing rapidly. While many of these changes are very welcome, businesses must meet them thoughtfully if they are to continue to work with disabled employees and customers in a productive way.

We hear a great deal about the ageing population and how this means there will be more people with disabilities and long-term conditions working and generally living longer. We know that 18% of the UK population has a disability or long-term condition and this rises to 44% of adults at pension age or over. Linked to this, we also know that 83% of disabilities and long-term conditions are acquired during someone’s life rather than being present at birth.

So, why does disability consistently struggle for airtime in comparison to other protected characteristics? Much is being made (quite rightly) of the gender pay gap, but let’s not forget: there’s also not just a disability pay gap, but a disability employment gap. We know that still, in 2018, half of disabled people do not have the opportunity to work. Based on figures from the Labour Force Survey by ONS, we worked out at what point in the year, if compared with the rest of the workforce, the opportunities for disabled workers would dry up – and this year we estimate that “Disability Unemployment Day” would be 11 August.

And yet, despite all this, time and time again we hear of the struggle to get disability on the board agenda in a meaningful way and of the frustrations when reports about other aspects of diversity make no mention of disability. Far too often, it seems to be the poor relation. This puzzles me, because disability is the only protected characteristic that you can literally acquire overnight. It is not respectful of status, or wealth or class or education – it affects all of us. Far too often, the discussion is all about “them”, those disabled people over there. But actually, it is not about them, it is about all of us.

So we wanted to ask: What does it mean to be disabled in today’s workforce?

Disability in the modern workplace means a modern approach to what we mean by disabilities which are often non-visible long-term conditions. This is important, because one of the major challenges for employers is that they may well not know that their employees are disabled.

Either way, it’s likely that in your professional life – and your personal life – you know many more disabled people than you think you do! Around 96% of disabilities are not visible and our recent study found that 60% of people who had a non-visible disability chose not to tell their employer either at application or once in employment. I often reflect on the fact that if you have a physical disability you don’t have the luxury of choice of whether you tell someone about it – but equally, you don’t have to keep effectively “coming out” over and over again!

At this point you may be asking, why do I need to know? And indeed does it matter if you know if your employees are disabled or have a long-term condition?

I’d respond to that by asking, where is people’s energy going? Is it focused on doing the job or on hiding or working around a condition? One of the increasingly hot topics for our Advice Service – and beyond – is mental health. One of my colleagues remarked to me recently that employers perceive mental health as a problem as they generally don’t find out that someone has a mental health condition until they are not coping or are in crisis. So employers need to create an environment where it is ok to tell and know support will be there; such an environment where we talk about “us” and acknowledge that disability can and does affect every one of us in some way is really important in enabling people to bring their “whole selves” to work.

And going back to the fact that most disabilities are acquired – and the average age of acquiring a disability is apparently 53 – does it make a difference whether someone has a lifelong disability or a newly acquired disability? We know, in particular, that people who experience say sight or hearing loss later in life can feel very vulnerable and isolated and go to great lengths to conceal their acquired disability, rather than asking for the support they need, and the often readily available tools that could make such a difference.

At Business Disability Forum our ultimate goal – and the reason we exist – is to transform the life chances of disabled people as employees and consumers. We want to work with our Members and Partners to put disability front and centre on the agenda at board level, both in the UK and globally. I want to issue a call to arms to business to join together with us to meet the challenges.

This is a time of change. We need to stay alert to ensure that our hard won rights are not diminished, for example by the Trade Bill and the Withdrawal Bill allowing Ministers to make changes to primary legislation like the Equality Act without recourse to Parliament and this is something we are currently lobbying on in partnership with Liberty and Disability Rights UK. If this is a time to explore new horizons we should ensure that everyone benefits and that we take the opportunity to lead the way, enhance the rights of disabled people and increase everyone’s ability to contribute to the success of our country.

Let’s make sure we work together to do that; by joining forces we really can make a difference.

Disability in the modern workplace – one week to go!

diane videoBy Diane Lightfoot, Chief Executive Officer, Business Disability Forum

You can hear Diane talk about this event in our video about the conference, available on our YouTube page, by clicking here.

It’s just one week to go until our annual conference and so if you haven’t booked already, now is your chance!

It’s taking place on Wednesday 18 April at the Royal College of Nursing in central London and we’ve a packed programme planned

Our theme this year is “Disability in the modern workplace” – and we’ll be looking at how we can seize the opportunities provided by technology and new ways of working to bring us closer to a world where disabled people, businesses and governments can work together without barriers. We’re living – and working – in a world that is changing very rapidly. While many of these changes are very welcome, businesses must meet them with caution if they are to continue to work with disabled employees and customers in a productive way.

assitive-technology-at-desk-e1522250696637We hear a great deal about the ageing population and how this means there will be more people with disabilities and health conditions in work and generally living longer. We also know that 83% of disabilities and health conditions are acquired during someone’s life rather than being present at birth. So, why does disability consistently struggle for airtime in comparison to other protected characteristics?

At Business Disability Forum our purpose and our mission to work with business to transform the life chances of disabled people as employees and consumers and this event aims to shine a light on what that means in the modern world – and beyond!

So, some of the questions we’ll be asking include

  • What can we in the UK learn from other countries about getting it right on disability?
  • Why do certain groups of disabled students find it much harder to find employment than others?
  • What can employers do to ensure that they tap into and hire the best disabled talent from our universities?
  • Why do disabled employees need career development courses specifically for them?
  • Does it make a difference if the person has a visible or non-visible disability or whether they have a lifelong disability or a newly acquired disability?
  • How can we make sure that technology is an enabler of – rather than a placement for – people?

We’re delighted to be joined by the Minister for Disabled People, Work & Health, Sarah Newton MP as our morning keynote and we’ll also be taking a look at what disability means in a global context, from the perspective of both big business – Shell and Accenture – and government from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office. We’ll also be looking at career progression and what’s needed to support disabled people to achieve their full potential – as all too often we know that disabled people’s career trajectory lags behind that of their non-disabled peers.

Of course, technology has a huge role to play in opening up opportunities and breaking down barriers and so we will be looking at what’s happening at the cutting edge in assistive technology and beyond. We’ll also be holding a bring your own device workshop over lunch where experts from Microsoft will be showing you how to get the most out of your mobile – and at the myriad of accessibility features that are at your fingertips.

We’ll be ending the formalities with a “Future of work” panel and “Question Time” hosted by newscaster Sir Martyn Lewis and with panellists from Barclays, Microsoft, EY and HSBC, it’s sure to be a lively debate! – followed by a networking drinks reception so you can chat and catch up with your peers.

We’re delighted to have our Partner HSBC on board as our sponsor for this and we’ll also be launching our new suite of nine briefings which HSBC have also kindly sponsored, at the event. We’re offering a 10% discount on the new briefings – which include guidance on stress, anxiety and depression, autism and Asperger’s syndrome, cancer, diabetes, dyspraxia, stammering and learning disability – which could save the cost of your ticket!

To sign up and find out more please click here:, call us on 020 7403-3020, or email

We hope to see you there!

Three key rules for accessible businesses

By Marianne Rawlins, Limbless Association

The following piece features in the Spring 2018 edition of Step Forward, the quarterly newsletter publication of the Limbless Association.

We decided to featured this piece to mark Limb Loss Awareness Month this year (April 2018) and in it Lucy Ruck, Technology Taskforce Manager, discusses her views on what accessibility means for an amputee.

Man in a wheelchair calling an elevatorOrganisations are missing out on a vast pool of talent by failing to recruit employees with disabilities. Often, it’s not the case that organisations intentionally design their processes and practices to be inaccessible, but rather that they fail to consider how to make them open and inclusive. “One of the key areas of our work is to get disability onto organisations’ radars,” explains Lucy Ruck, Technology Taskforce Manager at  Business Disability Forum.

Disabled people can face many challenges when looking for work. Physical barriers, such as access to buildings, are obvious, but less overt issues can be harder to tackle. Sometimes, problems arise around unclear recruitment processes. “For example, we often come across websites that are inaccessible, meaning disabled applicants can’t even apply for jobs. Or it may be that a disabled candidate has an interview, but the organisation doesn’t know how to make adjustments for them during the selection process,” says Lucy.

The fear factor can also put off some organisations. They may be scared of asking the wrong questions in interviews or unsure about the legislation on employing disabled people. “Because of the stigma around disability, sometimes organisations decide it’s easier to employ someone else, and this is where Business Disability Forum can step in and support them. We help them with specific issues, and we can also review their processes.”

Business Disability Forum has over 300 members, including large corporations, such as Sainsbury’s, Barclays, Shell and Microsoft, as well as government departments like HM Revenue & Customs and the Department for Work and Pensions. “They come to us for help. We are very much about supporting business – whether that’s in the private, public or voluntary sector – and act as a trusted ally.” The aim is to help organisations implement changes that will make it easier for them to attract disabled talent. “However, we understand that one size doesn’t fit all, and that adjustments will always need to be made,” adds Lucy.

Lucy Ruck speaking at Business Disability Forum's conference in 2017

Lucy Ruck speaking at Business Disability Forum’s conference in 2017

Lucy is an amputee and a long-standing member of the Limbless Association. “I became an amputee in October 1993 aged 17. I was on my way to college, where I was studying hairdressing, and I got off the train at my usual station. What I didn’t see was that a fast train was coming through the station. It hit me at 65mph. They found my leg half a mile up the track.”

The accident set Lucy’s career along a different trajectory. “Standing up all day as a hairdresser wasn’t the best option, so I went back to college to do my A-levels. After this, I decided to get an office job, as this would provide me with a good mix of sitting and standing. My previous jobs have ranged from admin, to tech and customer service and then onto my current role at Business Disability Forum.” The job is the perfect marriage of Lucy’s skills and experience, and allows her to pursue her dedication to promoting accessibility. “When I saw the role advertised I thought, ‘What a great fit!’ Finally, I could bring together tech, customer relations and disability – it was the dream job!”

Making tech accessible to all

Lucy runs Business Disability Forum’s Technology Taskforce, a group of individuals from leading UK and global organisations who are working together to improve the use of inclusive design and accessible technology. The Taskforce provides tools, best practice, networking opportunities and technology industry influence to help organisations to create and deploy more accessible technology. “Working with these passionate people to make technology more accessible is a real pleasure,” she says.

Lucy’s tips for employers

  1. Look past the disability and see the person and their skills.
  2. Don’t be afraid of disability – organisations such as the BDF are there to guide and support you.
  3. Think of the advantages. Having a range of diverse talent is a benefit to your organisation. These employees will often be great problem-solvers and will provide you with a different perspective.


StepForward is the quarterly publication of the Limbless Association: For more information call 01245 216670 or email

Unlocking the potential of employees with neurodiverse conditions

Sign for RBS Business School, Edinburgh

Royal Bank of Scotland have just achieved Gold in Business Disability Forum’s Disability Standard.

In this blog, Louise Ferguson, Operational Manager at Royal Bank of Scotland, talks about how they worked with the consultancy Lexxic to improve support for employees.

In October 2016, we began to make referrals to Lexxic for individuals affected by dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, AD(H)D, and other neurological differences. Lexxic are Business Psychologists and specialists in dyslexia and neurodiverse conditions.

Previously, support for neurodiverse conditions had been provided through our Occupational Health providers. Workplace assessments would be carried out by an Occupational Therapist where an adult screening test would be undertaken to confirm likely-hood of a condition and its severity. In addition to this they would provide recommendations to support the employee in doing their role.

Working with Lexxic has enabled us to provide access to industry specialists who offer us the options of diagnostic testing, work place assessment, e-learning modules and one to one support training. The move to Lexxic has been incredibly beneficial for our employees with neurodiverse conditions, as well as their managers and colleagues. A clear advantage of the service provided by Lexxic is that they can run ‘lunch and learn’ awareness sessions for managers and colleagues, allowing them to better understand conditions and how best to work with and support their colleagues. Feedback from employees has been very positive.

We work closely with Royal Bank of Scotland’s employee led disability network ‘Enable’ to raise awareness of different conditions, and the support available in the workplace. We’ve really seen the benefit of unlocking the potential of those employees with neuro differences.

A Lexxic newsletter recently highlighted the story of Chris, a complaints handler in the bank who has dyspraxia. He shared his story in a post called ‘There’s a lot of things that I can do better than someone who doesn’t have dyspraxia’. He talked about the importance of raising awareness, and using the highlighted tools to make adjustments to his working practices.

The support Lexxic have (and continue) to provide has been very valuable. They have a good understanding of our business, and the employees’ needs. It’s great to hear about their new strategic alliance with Business Disability Forum.