Accessible documents at the Northern Ireland Assembly
This policy explains how accessible the documents the Northern Ireland Assembly publishes on niassembly.gov.uk are. It covers PDFs and other types of document. It does not cover content published on niassembly.gov.uk as HTML: the main niassembly.gov.uk accessibility statement covers that.
Using our documents
The Northern Ireland Assembly publishes documents in a range of formats, including PDF documents and Word documents.
We want as many people as possible to be able to use those documents. For example, when we produce a document we make sure to:
- provide an HTML option where possible
- tag headings and other parts of the document properly, so screen readers can understand the page structure
- make sure we include Alt Text alongside non-decorative images, so people who cannot see them understand what they’re there for
- avoid using tables, except when we’re presenting data
- write in plain English
How accessible are our documents
New documents produced internally and that we publish should be fully accessible.
We know that some of our older documents (published before 23 September 2018) are not accessible. For example, some of them:
- are not tagged properly - for example, they do not contain proper headings
- non-textual elements such as images have not been provided Alt Text to describe the contents to people who cannot see them
- have not been assigned a document title
- are not written in plain English
- include complex tables
- are just photocopies and are not marked up in a way that allows screen reader users to understand them
As these documents were published before 23 September 2018 they are exempt from the regulations, so we do not currently have any plans to make them accessible. However, if any of these documents are updated in the future, the new version will be made accessible and accompanied by a HTML version where possible. Similarly, our most popular and regularly used documents that were originally published before 23 September 2018 have been updated to make them fully accessible.
Other documents which may not be accessible
The PDF version of Bills is produced by software that does not apply appropriate accessibility to the document. However, HTML versions of Bills are also supplied which do take accessibility measures into consideration.
Most of our Research and Information Service documents are also not fully accessible. As of May 2022, new templates and guidance has been provided to enable research publications to be made as accessible as possible going forward.
Third party documents
We are also required to publish a number of third party documents which may not be accessible. For example:
- As part of their work, Assembly Committees receive written evidence and correspondence from individuals, Executive Departments and external stakeholders in relation to inquiries, the scrutiny of legislation and other Committee business such as Legislative Consent Motions. This correspondence is published on the respective Committee's webpages and is often published as a PDF. As these PDFs come from an external source and are often large documents, it is not possible to ensure their accessibility.
- The Assembly’s Research and Information Service publishes deposited papers which are typically provided by Executive Departments in response to Questions asked by MLAs. These papers contain information or data related to the Assembly question and are published in a PDF format which may not be fully accessible.
- Some documents contain links to external documents produced by third parties for which we have no control over their accessibility. For example, a Committee may link to reference material from another organisation as part of its work or a research paper may cite and link to information published in another document produced by another individual or organisation.
But if you need to access information in one of the document types listed above that is produced internally by the Northern Ireland Assembly, you can contact us and ask for an alternative format.
What to do if you cannot use one of our documents
If you need a document we’ve published in a different format:
- Email: email@example.com
- Call: 028 9052 1137
- Postal Address: Northern Ireland Assembly, Parliament Buildings, Ballymiscaw, Stormont, Belfast BT4 3XX
- Textphone: 028 9052 1209 (Please note that this is a textphone number only)
We’ll consider your request and get back to you as soon as possible.
Reporting accessibility problems with one of our documents
We’re always looking to improve the accessibility of our documents. If you find any problems not listed on this page or you think we’re not meeting accessibility requirements, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 028 9052 1137.
The Equality Commission for Northern Ireland (ECNI) is responsible for enforcing the Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No. 2) Accessibility Regulations 2018 (the ‘accessibility regulations’). If you are not happy with how we respond to your complaint, you can contact the Equality Commission.
Technical information about the accessibility of our documents
The Northern Ireland Assembly is committed to making our documents accessible, in accordance with the Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No. 2) Accessibility Regulations 2018.
The documents the Northern Ireland Assembly publishes are partially compliant with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines version 2.1 AA standard, due to the non-compliances listed below.
Non accessible content
The content listed below is non-accessible for the following reasons.
Non-compliance with the accessibility regulations
We do our best to make sure that all new documents are accessible and are accompanied by a HTML version as much as possible. However, we are aware that some documents published after September 2018 may have accessibility issues.
Some documents have diagrams or images that do not have a text alternative (Alt Text), so the information in them is not available to people using a screen reader. This does not meet WCAG 2.1 success criterion 1.1.1 (non-text content).
Some of our documents are published in an unstructured PDF. Headings, list items, tables and paragraphs may not be recognised by a screen reader. This does not meet WCAG 2.1 success criterion 1.3.1 (info and relationships).
Some of our documents contain non-descriptive hyperlink text. This makes it difficult for screen reader users to tell where a link will take them when selected. This does not meet WCAG 2.1 success criterion 1.3.1 (info and relationships).
Some documents do not have a ‘Page Title’ set which means that this information is not available to a screen reader. That means that they do not meet WCAG 2.1 success criterion 2.4.2 (Page Titled).
Some documents do not have running headers and footers. Running headers and footers provide a consistency that helps users with cognitive limitations, screen-reader users and low-vision magnifier users, and users with intellectual disabilities understand content more readily. That means that they do not meet WCAG 2.1 success criterion 2.4.8 (Location).
Some of the documents we publish are produced by third parties. We are not able to make these fully compliant, for example adding alternative text to images or diagrams or adding a heading structure. This means that they do not meet WCAG 2.1 success criterion 1.1.1 (Non-Text Content).
When we publish new documents or update existing documents we’ll make sure that they meet accessibility standards. Our most popular and frequently read documents are consistently reviewed for accessibility.
Most of our Research and Information Service documents are not fully accessible. The volume and size of these documents means that a substantial amount of work would be required to make them accessible in relation to demand. As of May 2022, new templates and guidance has been provided to enable research publications to be made as accessible as possible going forward. All previous content remains open to request for an alternative format.
Content that’s not within the scope of the accessibility regulations
Many of our older PDFs and Word documents do not meet accessibility standards - for example, they may not be structured so they’re accessible to a screen reader. This does not meet WCAG 2.1 success criterion 4.1.2 (name, role value).
The accessibility regulations do not require us to fix PDFs or other documents published before 23 September 2018 if they’re not essential to providing our services. However, any documents considered important have been updated to include an accessible PDF or HTML version.
Any new PDFs or Word documents we publish will meet accessibility standards and be provided with a HTML version where possible. There may be occasions when time constraints mean that a non-accessible version of a document is published. On these occasions, efforts will be made to retrospectively correct any accessibility issues as soon as possible.
How we tested our documents
We regularly test our most popular and commonly used documents to ensure that they meet the most current standards of best practice.
All new website documents are tested for accessibility before they are published on the website.
Accessible document templates have been provided where appropriate. Documents are tested for accessibility using the following tools:
- Microsoft Word Accessibility Checker
- Adobe Acrobat Accessibility Checker
- Tingtun online PDF Checker
What we’re doing to improve accessibility
To improve the accessibility of our documents we accompany them with an HTML equivalent as much as possible. Documents are also tested with accessibility checkers prior to publication. Staff have also been provided with accessible document guidance and templates in order to assist with the production of accessible material. The most important documents are also reviewed regularly for accessibility. We also do our best to maintain awareness of the current standards of best practice.
This page was prepared on 1 June 2022. It was last updated on 1 June 2022.