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Making GOV.UK Pay more accessible

Three Chrome laptops on a long desk with a stool underneath, posters on two surrounding with headings of Vision and Design for Everyone.
GOV.UK Pay aims to offer public sector organisations the most accessible payment service. Here’s how we’ve made it accessible with the latest version of the GOV.UK Design System.

GOV.UK Pay is a simple, secure way to pay for government services online. To date, GOV.UK Pay has been adopted by 200 services across over 70 public sector organisations, which have collectively processed over £160 million in payments.

Why accessibility is important to the GOV.UK Pay team and how we make it happen

It’s longstanding government policy to make sure that digital services are accessible for all users and to encourage improved equality of access to government information and services.

When citizens are paying for government services, they should have the best possible experience, and this level of quality should apply to all users. GOV.UK Pay has a role in making sure the UK public sector meets its accessibility standards by being a leading example.

GOV.UK Pay is PCI DSS compliant, which means we own our hosted payment pages and control all the key bits of the payment experience. Being PCI compliant means that we can fully control every aspect of users' payment experience, including ensuring that it meets the highest standards of accessibility.

It could also be confusing for users to be handed over to an unfamiliar website. That’s why we offer custom branding where GOV.UK patterns are not used. It’s also better for privacy – GOV.UK Pay handles user data that would otherwise go to third party websites.

One of our priorities on the Pay team is accessibility. We keep our service accessible by:

  • regularly testing the service with users
  • carrying out accessibility audits
  • using the latest version of the GOV.UK Design System
  • using feedback and data to develop the most user-friendly and accessible payment pages
  • making our service compliant with all the latest accessibility regulations
  • designing in resilience, for example making it hard for users to accidentally make duplicate payments

How we used the GOV.UK Design System to make Pay more accessible

It’s now compulsory for government organisations to follow the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (known as WCAG 2.1 AA). This is an internationally recognised set of recommendations for improving web accessibility.

The GOV.UK Pay team is fully complying with the WCAG 2.1 AA standards. We achieved this by upgrading to the latest version of GOV.UK Frontend, the code library that powers the GOV.UK Design System.

GOV.UK Frontend 3.0 includes a new accessible colour scheme, and other improvements that make it compliant with WCAG 2.1 AA.

When we migrated Pay to GOV.UK Frontend in 2018 we used its built-in component macros, which are reusable recipes. This means the outputted markup will always be up-to-date so upgrading to Frontend version 3.0 required very little effort on our side. If we wrote plain HTML for all our buttons for instance, and there was an accessibility fix released in GOV.UK Frontend, we would have had to manually update every button to use the new syntax.

If you’re a government service taking payments, you can be certain that GOV.UK Pay meets the accessibility criteria for both paying citizens and staff users. If you do not use GOV.UK Pay, you should check with your payment service provider that their payment pages meet accessibility standards.

What you can do to meet accessibility standards

If you’re worried about meeting accessibility standards for the services you provide, we’d recommend looking at the Design System - it made it much easier for us to meet the standards.

All the components in the Design System meet the WCAG 2.1 AA accessibility standard, and there’s guidance on how to make your own components meet it too.

Upcoming research with GOV.UK Pay users and feedback

Making sure that GOV.UK Pay complies with guidelines and is technically accessible is only half the battle. We also have to make sure the service is usable and accessible from users’ perspective. To do this, we’re constantly carrying out user research to make sure users are able to complete tasks and achieve their goals.

Our next round of accessibility user research is in October 2019. This research is planned with paying citizens. If you’re a service owner who wants to partner with GOV.UK Pay on upcoming research or you have any feedback about the service, get in touch with us at

If you want to take part in our accessibility research as an individual and help to make the payment process better and accessible for everyone, sign up to the GOV.UK Pay access needs panel and we will get in touch.

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