Website accessibility statement
We want our websites to be as open and inclusive as they can be. That means they can be used by the widest possible audience.
This accessibility statement applies to websites owned and operated by The Natural History Museum, London:
- the main website
- the online shop
- the Wildlife Photographer of the Year site
- the Data Portal
- the Natural History Museum blog
- Wallace Letters Online
- scientific databases and art collections under nhm.ac.uk
- older pages indexed under nhm.ac.uk/research-curation
These websites are run by The Trustees of The Natural History Museum, London. In accordance with The Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) Accessibility Regulations 2018 No. 952, we expect all our users will be able to:
- change colours, contrast levels and fonts
- zoom in up to 200% without the text spilling off the screen
- navigate most of the website using just a keyboard
- listen to most of the website using a screen reader (including the most recent versions of JAWS, NVDA and VoiceOver)
We've also worked on making the content of our websites as simple as possible to understand. We write in plain English and explain scientific terms wherever possible.
If you experience any difficulties accessing the content of our websites, please contact us and a member of our team will assist you.
For more information on how to make your device easier to use if you have a disability, see this AbilityNet guide.
This page was last updated in May 2023 and provides information on:
- websites owned and operated by the Natural History Museum
- what to do if you can't access one of our websites
- how accessible our websites are
- how we have tested our websites for accessibility
- what we are doing to improve our websites' accessibility
- reasons for non-compliance with accessibility regulations
- how we prepared this accessibility statement
What to do if you can't access one of our websites
If you need information on this website in a different format, please contact us.
Feedback from our users is an important part of making sure that our websites work for you. If you can't access any part of our websites, or experience any accessibility problems, please get in touch and a member of our web team will get back to you.
You can call our contact centre on +44 (0)20 7942 5000. Lines are open Monday-Sunday 9.00-17.00.
You can also email us via our enquiries form.
If you contact us with a complaint and you're not happy with our response, contact the Equality Advisory and Support Service (EASS).
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) is responsible for enforcing the Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No. 2) Accessibility Regulations 2018 (the 'accessibility regulations').
How accessible our websites are
The Natural History Museum is committed to making its websites accessible, in accordance with the Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No. 2) Accessibility Regulations 2018.
Our websites are currently partially accessible, but we are working to make them fully accessible.
Most of our websites are partially compliant with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines version 2.1 AA standard. There are some areas of our sites that do not currently meet this because of the non-compliances and exemptions listed below.
We know we could make our website more accessible by fixing the following:
- some headings and page structures are not consistent
- some images that are used as links do not have alternative text available
- older applications, such as scientific databases, are missing labels from navigational elements and forms and missing alternative text from images
- some components within our webpages do not work as well as they should at higher screen magnification settings
- it's not possible to change the line height or spacing of text
- video and audio content does not always have text content available as an alternative
- some third-party tools we use to help provide our digital services are not fully accessible to screen reader and keyboard users
- many documents are in PDF format and are not accessible
How we have tested our websites
To test the main website for accessibility improvements, we have:
- had users with access needs test key journeys on our site in March 2020, in an externally commissioned review and report
- sought out opportunities to make further improvements with the help of accessibility testing tools such as aXe and WAVE
- identified and tested problems following a Government Digital Service audit in March 2021, and confirmed fixes using aXe
- continued to run manual and automated aXe tests across our digital products and services to understand issues
What we are doing to improve
We update our websites regularly to improve accessibility.
Some key updates we have made include changes to the visual design of the main website. Headings and links are now easier to see. We have made submenus and navigation easier to use by adding accessible labels and making sure they work when the screen is magnified.
Alternative text is now available on all images that need it, and all new images that we add to the site have alternative text. Screen reader users can now skip images that are purely decorative.
We have also introduced a new design for emphasised text to replace misused headings and added accessible labels to forms.
Reasons for non-compliance
In some places, parts of our website are not yet compliant with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines version 2.1 AA standard.
These include the following:
Principle 1: Perceivable
- In some of our older scientific databases and art collections, alternative text is not provided for images and navigational icons. This fails WCAG success criteria 1.1.1. We're aiming to resolve this by August 2022.
- We haven't provided text transcripts or audio descriptions to help those with visual impairments to understand what is happening in some of our videos and audio content. This fails WCAG 2.1 success criteria 1.2.3 and 1.2.5. We are currently seeking funding to be able to resolve this issue and plan to provide audio descriptions or a media alternative for video and audio content as soon as possible.
- Live video events hosted on the website do not have captions. This fails WCAG 2.1 success criterion 1.2.4.
Principle 2: Operable
- Not all of our links have a clearly defined purpose accessible to screen reader users. This fails WCAG 2.1 success criterion 2.4.4. We are aiming to fix this by the end of 2023.
- In some cases, we have used headings to emphasise text. This means that not all headings describe a topic or purpose. This fails WCAG 2.1 success criteria 2.4.6. We have introduced a new design and replaced some emphasised text with it, however we intend to further review the site to ensure all instances have been fixed. We aim to resolve this across our higher traffic pages by the end of 2023.
- There are some components where the keyboard focus isn't clearly indicated. This fails WCAG 2.1 success criteria 2.4.7. We are aiming to fix this by the end of 2023.
Principle 3: Understandable
- On some of our older scientific databases, the language of the page has not been set. This fails WCAG 2.1 success criteria 3.1.1.
- Not all of the form fields on our older scientific databases have accessible labels. This fails WCAG 2.1 success criteria 3.3.2.
We've looked into the cost and resources needed to fix the issues above. We believe that some of these issues would be too costly to fix right now. They are what's known as a disproportionate burden within the meaning of the accessibility regulations.
When we are doing other work on these areas, we will make them more accessible at the same time.
Below are the areas, and their issues, that we believe are a disproportionate burden to fix right now.
The way in which our main website content is built makes it difficult to apply a consistent heading structure. We believe the heading structures are correct across most of our pages, but there may be some cases where the heading structure is not consistent with the WCAG 2.1 standards. To fix this entirely would mean a complete rebuild of the site.
Issues with our older scientific databases and art collections
Some of our older scientific databases and art collections present multiple accessibility issues. For example, some lack alternative text on images and navigational icons, others have pages where the language has not been set, and in others the form fields lack accessible labels.
We are focused on the retirement and rebuild of these applications in more modern technologies.
Content that's not within the scope of the accessibility regulations
Some of the content included on our websites does not fit within the scope of the accessibility regulations. This includes:
Pre-recorded media published before 23 September 2020
We have not provided text transcripts or audio descriptions to help those with visual impairments understand what is happening in some of our videos and audio content. While we are working to ensure that pre-recorded media content published after 23 September 2020 has text transcripts or audio descriptions available, we are not able to implement this for all pre-recorded media already published.
Live audio and video
Our live video events do not have captions. We do not have the resources to provide a live captioning service during these events.
Heritage collections, such as scanned manuscripts
We have made transcripts and alternative text available where possible on our archived collections, art collections and scientific databases, but this is not available on all of our digital heritage collections.
PDFs or other documents published before 23 September 2018
Many of our PDFs and other documents were published before 23 September 2018, and are therefore exempt from the accessibility regulations.
We are working to ensure that documents published after this date and in future are accessible.
Third-party tools and services
The Museum operates some digital services that are provided through third-party platforms outside of our immediate control:
- Library and Archive service
This system is provided through the software application Primo by Ex Libris. Accessibility information for this service can be found on the Ex Libris website.
- Museum Archives Online Catalogue
This system is provided through the software application CalmView.
We also use a number of third-party services on our websites, including:
- Interact (quiz software)
- Soundcloud (audio content)
- Google Maps (interactive maps)
- Flockler (social media feed collation)
- YouTube (video content)
- Twitter (Twitter feed display)
- GetSiteControl (subscription pop-ups)
- HotJar (survey pop-ups)
The design and implementation of these are not under our control, and therefore they are exempt from the accessibility regulations. However, we make them accessible where we can and raise any other issues with these suppliers.
Issues with third-party tools and services that we are aware of
Some embedded third-party services, including Google Maps, may not be labelled correctly for screen readers and other assistive technologies.
We are not able to resolve this issue for Google Maps embedded on our site as it stems from code that is imported into the iframe from the Google Map API. We are not able to alter or edit this code.
We have provided a link out to the main Google Maps site for users to interact with a more accessible version of the content. Additionally, we always make location information available in an accessible way via an address, so that the map is not the only way of obtaining information.
HotJar is a survey tool used across our websites. Buttons on this tool do not have descriptive names to explain their purpose for screen readers.
We cannot alter or edit the code of this third-party tool to apply discernible text to these buttons. We have contacted HotJar and they have begun work to resolve this issue, however there is no timeline for when the tool will become compliant with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1.
GetSiteControl is a subscription pop-up tool used across our websites. When a keyboard user accesses a page where GetSiteControl is used, the pop-up appears over the top of the page content. The pop-up does not allow a keyboard user to focus on it. Because the page is blocked while the pop-up is open and the keyboard user cannot interact with the pop-up to close it, the keyboard user cannot access the page content.
We are not able to fix this issue as we cannot alter or edit the code of this third-party tool. We have contacted GetSiteControl, however there is no timeline for when an updated version of this tool will become available.
Preparation of this accessibility statement
This statement was prepared on 14 September 2020. It was last reviewed on 18 May 2023.
This website was last tested in May 2023. The tests were carried out by members of the Digital team at the Natural History Museum.
We chose sample pages to test that included all the components and templates we use across the site. We used aXe to find and assess compliance errors. We also reviewed the sample pages for issues not recognised by automated test tools, but that we believed to be making the experience more difficult for users of assistive technologies. This included testing with screen reader software and with higher zoom levels.
The website was last audited for accessibility in March 2021 by the Government Digital Service.