The GOV.UK Design System team works hard to ensure that this Design System and GOV.UK Frontend, the codebase it uses, are accessible.

When the Design System went into public beta in June 2018, it had been audited by accessibility specialists DAC (Digital Accessibility Centre) and met level AA of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0).

Where possible, the team aims to research components and patterns with a representative range of users, including those with disabilities.

It also tests components to ensure they work with a broad range of browsers, devices and assistive technologies.

Making your service accessible

While the GOV.UK Design System team takes steps to ensure the Design System is as accessible as possible by default, this does not remove the need for contextual research.

You must research styles, components and patterns as part of your service to ensure that they are accessible in context.

Find out what you need to do to make your service accessible in the GOV.UK Service Manual.

WCAG 2.1 updates

The GOV.UK Design System team is making some updates to improve the standard of accessibility for users. This includes making sure that the Design System and the styles, components and patterns it contains meet level AA of WCAG 2.1.

This will help ensure compliance with The Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No. 2) Accessibility Regulations 2018.

Read about the requirements for making your public sector website accessible.

If you are using the GOV.UK Design System and GOV.UK Frontend

Currently, a number of components in the Design System do not meet level AA of WCAG 2.1.

If you are using the Design System or Frontend now, you will fail an accessibility audit on a number of things. For example:

  • non-text contrast of links and various component focus states
  • text contrast of the link hover colour
  • non-text contrast of the tabs component

The GOV.UK Design System team has done some work already to make the Design System and Frontend meet level AA of WCAG 2.1. For example, they have added the autocomplete attribute to relevant patterns, like asking users for names.

The team is also aiming to release a new version of Frontend (v.3.0.0) and a series of updates to the Design System in July 2019 that will address the known issues.

If you have failed an audit because of something from the Design System or Frontend, it’s recommended you wait for the release, rather than trying to fix the issues independently.

This includes if you are using existing styles, such as the focus state, in your own components.

Updating to the next release of Frontend will not automatically mean you meet level AA of WCAG 2.1. You will still need to make sure your service as a whole meets accessibility requirements.

If you are not using the GOV.UK Design System and GOV.UK Frontend

The Design System and Frontend were introduced in June 2018 to replace the following deprecated codebases:

  • GOV.UK Elements
  • GOV.UK Frontend Toolkit
  • GOV.UK Template

The GOV.UK Design System team no longer supports these products and will not be making updates to help them meet level AA of WCAG 2.1.

If you are using these products, it’s recommended that you begin updating your service now to use the Design System and Frontend.

Doing this will allow you to update your service in a much more manageable way, than waiting to update straight to Frontend v.3.0.0.

If you would like to start using the Design System and Frontend, read guidance on how to get started.

The GOV.UK Design System team will keep this page up to date with updates and when the new version of Frontend is available.

If you have any questions in the meantime, get in touch.