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Accessibility: What managers need to know

Talking about accessibility

Web content accessibility has been discussed for years, with many people labouring under the delusion that it is something that only government websites have to deal with for now. They’ll do what’s easy – alt tags for images, title tags for links – but anything tougher than that and it’s a problem they’ll deal with on an as needed basis or ‘later’.

Well, it’s later than most people think.

Did you know that the provision of information and online services via the web is covered by the Disability Discrimination Act and this applies to “any individual or organisation developing a website or other web resource in Australia, or placing or maintaining a web resource on an Australian server”.

Your web site users – be they potential customers, students or your staff – have the right to be able to access the content you and/or your organisation provide.

Disability is a term that encompasses several categories. The most relevant to our discussion are:

  • Physical disability – affecting mobility or dexterity
  • Intellectual disability – affecting people’s abilities to read or learn
  • Psychiatric disability – affecting thinking processes
  • Sensory disability – affecting vision and hearing
  • Neurological disability – nerve damage that can impact bodily or mental functions

If you are thinking your users may not have a disability, consider statistics that show that as many as 15% of Australians identify as having a disability –

Also keep in mind that disabilities don’t have to be permanent in nature to affect someone’s ability to interact with technology or a web site. If you or a staff member or a student broke your dominant hand tomorrow – it wouldn’t necessarily result in a permanent disability – but if it precludes you from accessing information you require, you could have a complaint under the DDA.

This shouldn’t be news. More than three years ago the Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission recommended that all new and substantially changed Australian web sites comply with version 2.0 of international Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) to a level of AA – That means to avoid a complaint being filed against you under the act, you need to comply with the guidelines.

And for existing sites, section 4.2 of the World Wide Web Access DDA Advisory notes states: “All existing non-government websites and web content should comply with WCAG 2.0 to a minimum level of AA by December 31 2013.”

This is going to mean some significant work ahead for organisations who are only now becoming aware of the compliance guidelines.

This doesn’t just have implications for your website and content on your intranet site, it has implications for your business processes, management processes and approach to your staff development.

Implications for areas like:

  • Administration: How are you distributing information to your staff, clients, students and other stakeholders? Are the channels and materials accessible?
  • Procurement: How do you ensure you are purchasing technologies that can cater to the widest possible range of people – or can be adapted if required?
  • Management: Are your people confident they know what considerations need to be factored into project planning to ensure accessibility?
  • Training: What formats do you use for your training materials? How do you deliver inductions, safety instruction and training for new staff?
  • Content development: Are your content up to speed on the techniques that support the widest range of users?
  • Technical development: Do your coders and developers know how to create web sites or software that is compliant?
  • Marketing: Are the colours you use in your brand appropriate? Is there enough contrast?

This is the first post in a series about accessibility. We will also explore issues for content makers and some technical considerations.

We can help you navigate some of these accessibility issues, including running customised workshops for your staff. Get in touch with us at for more information.

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