Web Accessibility Policy Making:
An International Perspective
This document is an excerpt from the G3ict White Paper “Web Accessibility Policy Making: An International Perspective,” (Revised Edition 2012) researched and edited by Nirmita Narasimhan of Centre for Internet & Society, India, in collaboration with accessibility and disability policy experts from around the world. The paper seeks to identify some of the initiatives and best practices which have been adopted by 14 countries and the European Union as a first step towards policy formulation for countries.
Australia has generic legislation in the form of a Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) that covers web accessibility through advisory notes which supplement the DDA and are applicable to both public and private sector organizations. In addition, Australia has guidelines for minimum website standards and accessibility case laws. It is a signatory to the UNCRPD and has also signed and ratified both the Convention and the Optional Protocol.
Australia's web accessibility policy framework comprises one central Disability Discrimination Act, a plethora of specific guidelines on web accessibility, advisory notes and case laws. The country's local governments also have policies and guidelines that deal with accessible public websites. The legislations, guidelines and case laws are described below.
• Better Practice Guide-Internet Delivery Decisions:
This guide5 published by the Australian National Audit Office6 touches upon web accessibility and provides a summary of the main principles of accessible web design.
• Maguire v. Sydney Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (2000): A possible catalyst for the publication of advisory notes and guidelines is the case of Bruce Maguire suing the Sydney Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (SOCOG) for not making their website accessible.
This was the first successful case under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992; SOCOG had failed to make their official website for the Sydney Olympic Games adequately accessible to visually challenged users. The Commission's decision also struck out claims by SOCOG that modifying the site to meet the requirements would cause unjustifiable hardship and stated that such hardship cannot be used to avoid liability for breaching section 24 of the Act.
2. Compliance with WCAG
Australian government departments and agencies are required to adopt the WCAG.
The requirement in the DDA applies to any individual or organization developing a web page in Australia, or placing or maintaining a web page on an Australian server. This includes pages developed or maintained for purposes relating to employment, education, provision of services including professional services, banking, insurance or financial services, entertainment or recreation, telecommunications services, public transport services, government services, sale or rental of real estate, sport, activities of voluntary associations, or administration of Commonwealth laws or programs. All of these are areas specifically covered by the DDA.
4. Protocol for evaluating and monitoring
The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) is responsible for promoting the objectives of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) and provides advice about the implications and monitoring of the Act for website operators. Agencies are required to be familiar with the Disability Discrimination Act Advisory Notes. While considering a disability discrimination complaint about World Wide Web accessibility, the Commission takes into consideration the extent to which the best available advice on accessibility has been obtained and followed. The DDA allows for and the Commission encourages service providers to prepare Action Plans indicating the provider's own strategies for eliminating discrimination in its services. Designers are required to involve users of AT in the testing and evaluation of the accessibility of their websites wherever possible.
1. The Disability Discrimination Act, 1992
2. World Wide Web Access: Disability Discrimination Act Advisory Notes
3. Guide to Minimum Website Standards, Revised edition April 2003
4. Better Practice Guide: Internet Delivery Decisions