Australian government web accessibility compliance transitions from strategy to standards

  • Author: Chris Pycroft
  • Date: 30 Jul 2015

From a transition strategy to a national standard, the Digital Transformation Office has begun to detail requirements for federal government agencies to have their websites recognised as being accessible.

Following its launch as an agency on 1 July, the Digital Transformation Office has made one of its first accessibility focused presentations at Sydney’s A11Y Camp held last week.

Andrew Arch, Assistant Director of the newly launched office, placed emphasis on the government’s ‘People First’ standards that are in the process of being rolled out across all federal government departments.

Arch confirmed that accessibility will remain a core requirement for all websites that any federal government department creates, with user needs being the focus of 8 of the 16 criteria that are a part of the recently announced Digital Design Standard.

Accompanying the standard will be the Digital Service Design Guide, a resource that will take the place of the Australian Government Web Guide. Work is currently under way to ensure that all subject areas included within the web guide are addressed in the new guides and standards that are being produced.

The Digital Service Design Guide will reference the National Transition Strategy, the Disability Discrimination Act and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities as supporting policies for Australian government accessibility on an ongoing basis.

The National Transition Strategy, a government policy that provided a four-and-a-half year timeframe for federal, state and local government agencies to make their websites accessible, enforced a requirement that all agencies must meet Level AA of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. While a specific level of WCAG conformance will not be explicitly stated in future guides and standards, accessibility remains a core requirement – if websites aren’t accessible, and are recognised as not being accessible when they’re tested, then they won’t meet federal government web standards.

An emphasis was also placed on websites following their initial launch, with new standards requiring regular evaluation of government websites in order to ensure their continued usability and accessibility.

Arch also confirmed that a final report on the National Transition Strategy is expected to be released within the next two months. The report is expected to show improvements from the 2012 progress report in both the number of government agencies claiming compliance, as well as an increase in the number of government staff focusing on web accessibility.

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