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Get to WCAG 2.2 faster with the GOV.UK Design System

An illustrated screenshot of a Design System guidance page with WCAG 2.2 tags

There’s a new update in town, and it’s a big one! The GOV.UK Design System is ready to help service teams across the UK government meet the latest version of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines: WCAG 2.2.

2023 was a busy year for our team, as we worked to assess, investigate, implement and test accessibility improvements for our codebase and guidance. We’re excited that all our work can now help service teams across the UK Government make more accessible services in 2024.

You can learn What's new in WCAG 2.2 from the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI), the group that writes, manages and publishes WCAG.

The impact: why WCAG 2.2 matters

Improving accessibility improves lives.

The UK public sector is here to provide essential services and support to the public. Government services play a vital role, often as the sole provider of crucial services. We hold monopolies on driving licences, passports, business permits, and so much more. When these services are not made accessible, people get left behind without alternatives.

So WCAG 2.2 isn’t just an exercise in standards or compliance. It’s about making changes that benefit millions of users across the digital ecosystem. The updates included in WCAG 2.2 help real people. Similarly, neglecting or ignoring WCAG 2.2 harms real people.

Working together, we have the opportunity remove and reduce many barriers in government services, including for people:

Why we’re pushing for WCAG 2.2

Teams across government will need to work hard this year to make services more accessible, and we’re here to help.

WCAG 2.2 AA is the new minimum accessibility standard for all UK Government public sector websites and mobile apps. Starting from October 2024, services across the UK government will be monitored for WCAG 2.2 AA compliance.

Thousands of government services will require WCAG 2.2 updates in 2024, so we've updated our design system to anticipate the needs of service teams across the UK public sector. The GOV.UK Design System provides teams with accessible code and important guidance for designing consistent, usable, and accessible services in the GOV.UK ecosystem.  

Together, we can work to build government services that work better for everyone, and especially for disabled people. Implementing the WCAG 2.2 success criteria will  greatly improve services, with better interaction methods, more visible keyboard navigation, consistently located help tools and supports that make entering information simpler.

For teams using the design system

The WCAG 2.2 Design System updates include code changes to GOV.UK Frontend, a new accessibility section, and over 50 new pieces of WCAG 2.2 guidance content across our website.

To move over to the WCAG 2.2 version of the Design System:

  1. update to GOV.UK Frontend version 5.0 or later and thoroughly test your service (especially JavaScript enhancements).
  2. Follow the Design System’s WCAG 2.2 guidance page as a guide to make any necessary changes to your service’s design.

For teams not using the design system

Now is an excellent time to switch a government service to the GOV.UK Design System.

Services, including those run on third-party tools, will need to meet level AA of WCAG 2.2 as a minimum, with compliance monitoring starting from October 2024 (read more information on public sector accessibility monitoring). We’ve put in the effort to get the Design System ready now, to help service teams make the journey to meeting WCAG 2.2. More than 1,200 services are estimated to already use the GOV.UK Design System, and it’s a stable starting point for web accessibility.

The Design System provides accessible code and important guidance for designing consistent, usable, and accessible services in the GOV.UK ecosystem.

By using the GOV.UK Design System, teams can:

  • save time, money, effort and cognitive load
  • pull from design best-practices without reinventing the wheel
  • focus on solving service-specific problems
  • feel confident in implementing the GOV.UK brand
  • learn from other service teams

What’s next?

We’re planning more WCAG 2.2 activities to support, including potential workshops and peer support methods. However, we’d like to hear what would be helpful to you and your teams – you can tell us by joining our GitHub discussion page.

Keep an eye on the Design System’s WCAG 2.2 page for more updates, and sign up to our mailing list to hear from us about future events and updates.

If you have any questions, you can contact the team.

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  1. Comment by Helen Burrows posted on

    Hi, I'm interested how web pages that have products such as Microsoft Power Bi reports (which isn't WCAG 2.2) that have been created to help the public digest data and provide insight will be able to be compliant?
    What steps will need to be taken to be compliant if the third party software being used isn't yet compliant with the new guidelines? Will those organisations need to take down such tools from there web sites to ensure compliance or is there mitigation around data visualisation tools (non geospatial)

    • Replies to Helen Burrows>

      Comment by amywallis posted on

      Reply from the post authors: Hello! Thanks for leaving a comment for us. It's worth taking a look at the guidance to help you understand accessibility requirements for public sector bodies. It has got pointers on what you might not need to fix. The Government Analysis Function have published lots of guidance related to accessibility and data analyses too, which might be helpful.

      It's worth considering whether you could allow people to access the data in a more accessible format too, for example, by publishing in open formats rather than using a proprietary tool.