Making sure you have a fully accessible website is extremely important for both the University and website users.
What does accessibility mean?
Tim Berners-Lee, director of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), says the meaning of web accessibility is:
"to put the internet and its services at the disposal of all individuals, whatever their hardware or software requirements, their network infrastructure, their native language, their cultural background, there geographic location, or their physical or mental aptitudes."Tim Berners-Lee
Put simply, an accessible website means you're providing information that everyone can access.
University websites and accessibility
We have an obligation to comply with legislation and guidelines surrounding website accessibility. Part of that obligation is that our websites do not discriminate against a person on the grounds of a disability.
Accessibility and the law
In Australia, Section 24 of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA) makes it unlawful for someone who provides goods or services, or makes facilities available, to discriminate against another person on the ground of the other person's disability.
For more information, refer to Section 24 - Disability Discrimination Act 1992.
How does section 24 of the DDA relate to websites?
The DDA does not mention websites specifically. However, the Australian Human Rights Commission has issued Advisory Notes relating to the Act which assist individuals and organisations involved in the ownership or development of web resources, by clarifying the requirements of the DDA, and explaining how compliance can be achieved.
These Advisory Notes recognise the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, developed by W3C, represent 'the most comprehensive and authoritative international benchmark for best practice in the design of accessible websites'.
As such, our websites need to comply with the WCAG 2.0, Level AA standards.
Legal precedent in Australia
The case of Bruce Maguire vs the Sydney Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (SOCOG) in August 2000 was the first legal case brought and won against a web content provider on the grounds that their website was inaccessible for people with disabilities.
Bruce Maguire, who is blind, was unable to access certain parts of the Olympic Games website because the site failed to provide text alternatives for images.
SOCOG were found to have engaged in unlawful conduct under section 24 of the DDA by providing a website which, because of his blindness, was significantly inaccessible.
University Disability Action Plan
The University completed an Accessibility Review as a key achievement of the Disability Action Plan purpose over 2008-2013.
As the Disability Action Plan 2014-2019 reads: " An Accessibility Review to better facilitate compliance of the website with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines" as one of the key specific achievements over 2008 to 2013.
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1
Our website needs to meet Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1, Level AA standards.
Level AA means that our website will be accessible for most people, under most circumstances, with most technologies they use.
There are 13 guidelines that comprise the WCAG 2.1. These are:
- Provide text alternatives for non-text content.
- Provide captions and other alternatives for multimedia.
- Create content that can be presented in different ways, including by assistive technologies, without losing meaning.
- Make it easier for users to see and hear content.
- Make all functionality available from a keyboard.
- Give users enough time to read and use content.
- Do not use content that causes seizures or physical reactions.
- Help users navigate and find content.
- Make it easier to use inputs other than keyboard.
- Make text readable and understandable.
- Make content appear and operate in predictable ways.
- Help users avoid and correct mistakes.
- Maximize compatibility with current and future user tools.
When creating content in the University templates, please consider these W3C accessibility checkpoints:
- Images: image descriptions should be used to describe the function of an image.
- Multimedia: captioning and transcripts should be provided for audio, and descriptions should be available of video.
- Hypertext links: the link text should make sense when read out of context, therefore avoid "click here".
- Page organisation: maximise consistency of structure and use headings and lists for organisation.
- Graphs or charts: summarise the content where appropriate.
- Scripts plug-ins and applets: provide alternative content to allow for situations where active features are inaccessible or unsupported.
- Tables: summarise content and ensure line by line reading is sensible.
NOTE: On 15 October 2012, the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) announced the approval of the WCAG 2.0 as an ISO/IEC International Standard .
Accessibility and ethics
In Australia, non-discrimination and the equal right to participate are held as strong moral values.
Doing our best to ensure we have created accessible websites is an expression of those values and our social responsibility.
If you'd like to know more about website accessibility, you'll find plenty of information on the following pages:
Accessibility evaluation tools
Web accessibility evaluation tools are software programs or online services that help determine if a website meets accessibility guidelines.
While these tools can significantly reduce the time and effort to evaluate websites, no tool can automatically determine the accessibility of websites.
Visit the Accessibility tools page for more information.