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Every day, the Digital Access team at Vision Australia sees proof that the Web Accessibility National Transition Strategy (NTS) is driving positive change. Organisations around the country are making steps towards improving the accessibility of their online applications; steps that will be of particular benefit to our ageing population and people with disabilities, as well as the wider community. 

Based on some of the common questions asked by our clients, on 25th June 2013 we spoke with Jacqui van Teulingen and Andrew Arch from Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) to gain some first-hand insight into the realisation of the NTS.

Digital Access: At the end of the reporting period for phase one of the NTS, how are things looking for the 2014 NTS deadline?

AGIMO: At this stage we’re still analysing the data we collected from the recent 2012 milestone survey, so can’t answer that question yet, though we do know that a lot of accessibility-related activity has been undertaken across government. In addition to asking agencies about their website conformance, we also surveyed them about their progress through the transition phase. Website accessibility isn’t like an assembly line where you can sample the output every now and then to be sure the production tolerances are right, but a process of continual improvement and ongoing maintenance. In addition to implementing the WCAG 2.0 standard, we wanted to ensure that government agencies put processes in place, including staff training, publishing processes, systems upgrades, procurement reviews, etc. to make certain their accessibility efforts are sustainable beyond the life of the Web Accessibility National Transition Strategy. 

Digital Access: Can you clarify AGIMO’s position regarding multiple formats for documents?

AGIMO: AGIMO and the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) still specify that if information is not published as HTML, then two accessible formats are required. That said, we did agree to review the position in 2013 and are about to embark on that process to see what changes have taken place in the assistive technology arena following the release of the W3C’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 techniques for PDF and the subsequent release of ISO 14289-1:2012 (PDF/UA). Until then, and depending on the results of our investigations, we recommend agencies start honing their skills in the production of accessible PDF documents while continuing to publish a second format (e.g. Word – DOCX). AGIMO will continue to encourage agencies to provide multiple formats for users to enable choice; choice limits the potential for discrimination.

Digital Access: How far does WCAG 2.0 get us towards ensuring our websites are usable for people with a disability or age related impairment?

AGIMO: WCAG 2.0 is an essential component of ensuring websites are usable by people with a disability and older people. For example, people relying on a screen reader will be limited without good semantic mark-up and many older people will not be able to progress very far without good contrast – both aspects of WCAG 2.0. WCAG 2.0 itself does not profess to meet the needs of all people who might have a disability, but provides the essential requirements for technical accessibility. However, good usability also has to be delivered. Usability is a parallel requirement to the WCAG 2.0 technical standard and applies to the use of a website by all people. User needs analysis and usability testing should be part of all website development in addition to the incorporation of the technical requirements of WCAG 2.0. Information about accessibility and usability is published in the Web Guide.

We encourage you to provide comment and/or feedback about where further support is required towards the fulfillment of the NTS.