NEW RULES: This what you need to know if you make video, social and web content


Some new regulations have quietly come into force that will have a big impact if you work in public sector comms.

They’re from the people who brought you GDPR but this time with a less snappier title.

The full title is Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No. 2) Accessibility Regulations 2018.

So, for the purpose of this I’ll just call it the PSBAR, okay?

Nice people at the Government Digital Service have produced a handy explainer here.

I’ve read through them and here’s a few things you’ll need to know. They take EU regulations and enshrine them in UK law.

All public sector comms people need to know about them and how their work is affected.

Why and when they’ve been brought in

They’re being brought in to make content accessible by those who struggle with hearing or sight. It comes from a good place. This came into force on September 23 2018 but don’t panic. This fires the gun on a few things and gives you time to get ready.

What the basic points are

Under PSBAR, your content on the web needs to be ‘percievable, operable, understandable and robust.’

In other words, can a blind or deaf person understand it?

This is seriously bad news for all those misguided people who think uploading a pdf to the web and walking away is a good idea. It isn’t and never has been. Text on pdfs are hard to navigate and are often invisible to search engines.

However, you WILL need an accessibility statement from September 23 2019 for all new websites and also from September 23 2020 for existing ones, too. So, if you look after a website you’ve been advised to pull together a full review of your public sector website to make a plan to make it all accessible and help you meet those deadlines. That means going through your site page-by-page and making a plan to make them accessible.

In other words, goodbye bad pdf.

Some aren’t covered

Schools, nurseries are not covered. So are charities unless they particularly serve the disabled community.  The rest of the public sector is.

How your video content is affected

First, the important news for video creating comms people. You won’t be forced to go back and subtitle thousands of hours of old videos and council meetings.

This is a really important point.


Because there are a set of exemptions.

  • If you are a public sector broadcaster.
  • If you make live video.
  • If your content is up before September 2020.
  • If you have heritage content.

So, the live stream from the council meeting or the Facebook Live behind-the-scenes before the opening of the new museum exhibition are not covered and nor will they be in future.


Hold on.

Basically, what the future will look like after September 23 2020

You’ve also got until September 2020 to adjust to the new way of working by having your content work as both audio-only and sight-only.

For the public sector, apart from schools and nurseries and charities if they particularly serve disabled people:

  • Your live video won’t need subtitles.
  • Your existing video won’t need audio description and subtitles.
  • Your new video after September 23 2020 will need subtitles and a version that gets the information across as audio-only.
  • You’ll still be able to carry on using social media sites. Third party apps like this if you haven’t paid for their development are exempt.

In effect, this may mean you create one video that works for blind and deaf people OR that you create two edits with one having an additional audio track reading out text.

But don’t sit back

While PSBAR doesn’t make you subtitle before September 23 20202, I’d argue that the expectation has been raised. You want to reach as big an audience as possible, right? And let’s not forget that 85 per cent watch video with the sound off. So having some text on the screen will reach more people as will making the key points audio-only, too.

You may want to plan your video differently.


Well, a style of short content making that some news broadcasters excel at can tell the story with text, images and talking heads. This may be something for you to look at.

Website and apps are covered

Check the GDS link that talks you through how this covers intranets and websites for the full nine yards.

Of course, this blog doesn’t constitute formal legal advice. Go talk to your legal team too just to make sure you are all on the same page.

If you are interested in how you can stay ahead and use video yourself or in your team take a look at upcoming workshops in Exeter, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Edinburgh and London. Or if those dates don’t suit give me a shout 

Picture credit: Wayan Vota / Flickr



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