Web Accessibility

The Australian Institute of Company Directors recently posted an article on Web Content Accessibility, calling it “an ethical and business issue.” This is a timely message to directors in Australian companies, with web accessibility rapidly becoming a critical issue.

Largely ignored by businesses, Web Content Accessibility is the practice of ensuring digital content is delivered in a manner that can be accessed by members of the audience suffering from a disability.

Just as physical accessibility became an issue in society, and regulations introduced to require accessiblity aids such as wheelchair ramps and elevators, web content accessibility will become non-negotiable at some point soon. Australia’s Federal Government (and most states) has already made WCAG2.0 compliance mandatory on government sites. Currently, compliance is still fairly low and in my experience not treated as a priority, but it is inevitable that this will change as more public and private services become predominantly digital.

Don’t believe me? Ask Coles who have been sued over the lack of accessibility for the blind on their website. The United Nations has even declared access to the Internet to be a human right.

As the AICD point out in their article, this isn’t just a matter of discrimination, but also a commercial decision — the people affected are potential clients and you ignore them at your peril.

For organisations seeking to make their digital content accessible, there is guidance available: The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG2.0) are an international standard administered by the W3C — the consortium behind our basic internet standards. There are Australian conferences on web accessibility. Additionally, there are a number of other guides available, including this checklist for making annual reports accessible.

Prudent organisations will make it a mandatory requirement in all future projects that web content is made as accessible as possible, and start planning to remediate existing content that is not already accessible.

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