DWP signs £100k deal to ensure accessibility of Universal Credit digital services

Written by Sam Trendall on 23 January 2023 in News

Consultancy brought in on two-year contract to deliver audits and recommend improvements

Credit: Crown Copyright/Open Government Licence v3.0 

The Department for Work and Pensions has signed a deal for the delivery of a two-year programme of assessment to ensure Universal Credit digital services comply with accessibility requirements and that improvements are made, where necessary.

The department entered into an engagement with digital design agency Nomensa on 31 October, newly published procurement records indicate. The contract will be worth £97,030 to the Bristol-headquartered firm.

The consultancy will be asked to “conduct an accessibility audit on the UC journey”, the aim of which will be “helping to ensure that the d-partment is complying with the accessibility standards required and ensuring that any areas of improvement or noncompliance are identified, and suggested improvements [and] solutions are provided”.

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The contract added: “UC has been developed using agile methodologies over a number of years and, as such, requires a periodic accessibility audit to ensure the systems and online content remain compliant and accessible, work with assistive technologies and meet departmental, governmental and legislative requirements, notably WCAG 2.2 level AA. “

WCAG – the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines – are a set of internationally agreed online standards to measure the accessibility of online services. Regulation requiring new services launched by public bodies to meet these guidelines was first introduced in the UK in 2018. Existing websites were given until September 2020 to get up to scratch.

Research published by the government last year found that, as of the start of 2022, about 99% of public sector websites contained accessibility issues that breached regulatory requirements.

Between February 2020 and November 2021, only eight out of 593 websites assessed were found to be fully compliant with WCAG – equating to just 1.35% of sites.

The DWP contract indicates that, as well as delivery of “the core audit of our user interfaces on the UC digital service”, Nomensa will also be asked to “review certain components of UC learning and development, usability, and research”.

Once initial testing and improvement phases are complete, the firm will then “retest the three online journeys for [UC] – claimant, agent and landlord portals – to ensure ongoing compliance with the standards”.


About the author

Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology. He can be reached on sam.trendall@publictechnology.net.

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