The extended December 31 2014 deadline for Australian website accessibility compliance is fast approaching (WCAG 2.0 Level AA standard). This is a mandatory requirement on all websites owned and/or operated by the Australian government departments and agencies under any domain. This includes external (public-facing or private) and internal (closed community) sites. Therefore, conformance is required for all internet, intranet and extranet sites. Have you taken the necessary steps?
People with a disability are regarded as the largest minority in Australia. The Australian Government has a responsibility to make websites, especially those that fulfil a public function, accessible for those with disabilities.
Accessibility is important: accessibility allows people with disabilities to effectively consume information from a website or website content such as PDF. To ensure people with disabilities are not disadvantaged, Australian government agencies’ websites must comply with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 AA (double A).
At TWMG we are committed to creating websites, apps and communication collateral that complies to WCAG 2.0 AA or AAA standards, without compromising on the overall look and feel of the project.
The Australian government has implemented the NTS which is governed by AGIMO (Australian Government of Information Management Office). AGIMO oversees strategies and standards in regards to the Australian Government’s use of information and communications technology (ICT). For example, the NTS.
In Australia a ‘checkbox’ approach is used (WCAG 2.0 compliance). For example, organisations will aim to make their website level AA WCAG 2.0 compliant. The next step for AGIMO is to communicate and endorse a holistic approach to accessibility. Whereby, a positive end user experience is incorporated to compliance.
They are currently no set in stone guidelines for mobile app accessibility in Australia. We can currently refer to W3C’s Mobile Best Practices and the BBC Mobile Guidelines etc.
Regulation : Are there any set penalties for non-compliance?
While, there are no set penalties. AGIMO does not police the NTS. Government organisations are required to self-report the progress they have made in enhancing the accessibility of their online presence. Although under the DDA all organisations are required to publish accessible web content – if digital content is not accessible the organisation is vulnerable to litigation.
However, non-compliance leaves agencies open to legal action, similar to the Bruce Lindsay Maguire case vs the Sydney Olympics.
The issue of digital accessibility has a long precedent in Australia. Codified in the Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth DDA), the issue first achieved prominence before the 2000 Sydney Olympic games. Bruce Lindsay Maguire, a web user who was blind from birth brought the Sydney Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (SOCOG) to task arguing that the website owned by the SOCOG for the event was inaccessible with regards to the Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth DDA). The SOCOG was a statutory corporation established under legislation of the New South Wales parliament to stage the 2000 Olympic Games. The case made it all the way to Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission (HREOC) who ruled that the SOCOG’s website was inaccessible with regards to the Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth DDA).
The HREOC ruled that the SOCOG pay damages of $20,000. And Australian governments subsequently adopted the W3C Guidelines. The Commonwealth Government put into place requirements for all agency websites to pass accessibility tests. 14 years later the deadline for AA compliance is approaching.
What is required
To claim conformance websites must meet all five WCAG 2.0 conformance requirements.
- All Australian government websites should comply with the timelines and conformance requirements of the NTS, whether or not they are specifically mandated to do so. In particular, state and territory governments are strongly encouraged to comply with the AA conformance level that applies to Commonwealth Government websites;
- Non-government websites and web resources whose development commences after July 1 2010 should comply with WCAG 2.0 to a minimum of AA-Level conformance;
- Existing non-government websites or web resources that undergo substantial change in the period July 2010 – December 2013 should comply with WCAG 2.0 to a minimum level of AA conformance;
If you are not accessibility compliant, it’s time to get proactive. Call TWMG today and we will provide guidance on how an accessible solution can be achieved.