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What accessibility is and why it matters

As a government, we have a responsibility to provide access to our services for all the people of Scotland. One in five people in Scotland has a long-term health problem or disability. We provide information and services for everyone so we must ensure our digital services do not exclude people.

We also provide employment opportunities for people in Scotland. This means we also have a responsibility to make sure our digital workplace does not exclude people.

Accessibility is user experience

When we create websites and services, using these services should take someone with a disability the same amount of time and effort as someone without a disability. The experience should not be disproportionately more difficult.

Accessibility of a service extends beyond the website into the entire service. All parts of the service should be accessible.

Digital accessibility

Digital accessibility is about making digital content and services available to everyone, including people with disabilities. It is the practice of making sure your content can be accessed by as many people as possible and provide a good user experience. For example, video captions for people watching videos with the volume muted.

Digital accessibility is about building websites and services which work for disabled users. Some of these users may be using assistive technologies such as screen readers, screen magnifiers, assistive input devices or navigating using the keyboard. It's not only about assistive technologies. It's about ensuring designs consider use of colour, layout and the complexity of written content.

Read more about creating accessible websites and services.

Reasons for making services accessible

There are many reasons to make a service accessible. From a social responsibility perspective, we should ensure equal access to our sites and services for all users. This applies to all services, not just government services. Not only is is the right thing to do, but it also makes commercial sense. A study showed that 75% of disabled people and their families had stopped using a UK business because of poor accessibility or customer service.

Government organisations are required to provide accessible online services to comply with The Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No.2) Accessibility Regulations 2018.

Accessible websites are also shown to have better usability and because the website code is generally cleaner and better structured, they are often easier to maintain and upgrade. Accessible sites also work better across different devices and platforms.


There are conventions, laws, regulations, and policies that require and promote the need for accessibility. It's not lawful to discriminate against someone based on disability. You can find out more from the following:


There are technical benefits to procuring and developing accessible products such as:

  • reduced development and maintenance time
  • reduced bandwidth use and server load
  • prolonged product life through reuse of content and device independence
  • future-proofing content for new technologies


Accessibility has financial benefits for organisations for example:

  • reduced running costs because of infrastructure use and lower maintenance costs
  • reduced upgrade costs
  • reduced exposure to legal expenses


There are reasons for making sure services are accessible that are much less obvious but no less important. These include:

  • we provide services for all the people of Scotland
  • accessible services are more usable for everyone
  • increased accessibility of the digital workplace leads to increased employment opportunities for disabled people

Social model of disability

The social model of disability is an important way to think about accessibility. It's based on the idea that people are disabled when their environment fails to meet their needs. Those failures can be social, physical, or because of attitude or the way we communicate.

The social model of disability does not mean people are not disabled, it challenges us to find and remove the environmental barriers that get in their way. In other words, it says that society needs to change to better support disabled people, not that disabled people need to change so they can participate in society. It supports the idea that disabled people have a right to be full and independent members of society on an equal basis with others.

Accessibility and inclusion

These words are often used interchangeably and while they overlap, they are different.

Accessibility is how we measure the quality of content for disabled people. In digital and built environments it's based on recognised regulations and standards, and meeting those standards is the minimum we should do so we do not create barriers for disabled people.

Inclusion is more about diversity because it focuses on things like culture, language, geography, and digital exclusion, as well as people with disabilities.

Find out more

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