Australia goes WCAG 2

On Tuesday 23 February the Minister for Finance, Lindsay Tanner, announced the Australian Government had endorsed WCAG 2.0.

The press release by Minister Tanner contained few details, but said all government websites would need to comply with WCAG 2.0 by 2015.

“These new standards will improve the ability of people with a broad range of disabilities to take up those opportunities and engage with the Government via the Internet.”

Mr Bill Shorten, Parliamentary Secretary of Disabilities, reminded us that people with disabilities still face barriers that stop them from participating in many areas including work and education. He also said unequal access to information would reinforce the 2nd class status of people with disability within Australia. Mr Shorten supported the move from WCAG 1.0 to WCAG 2.0.

“This initiative will help ensure that people with disability are not left behind by the rapid growth of the Internet.”

On Wednesday 24, The Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) provided the following additional information:

“Government agencies will transition to WCAG 2.0 over a four year period, reaching level Single A within two years, and Double A within four years. A Transition Strategy will outline the process for implementation, and will address scope and inclusion issues. The Transition Strategy will be made available on the Web Publishing Guide in July 2010.

Agencies are reminded that it is still a requirement to publish an alternative to all PDF documents (preference for HTML or RTF). Advice on the accessibility support of PDF documents will be made available at the conclusion of the PDF Accessibility Review Project, due early 2010.”

The Transition Strategy, which is to be released in July, will be critical for at this stage we don’t know which technologies will be considered “accessibility supported” within the meaning of WCAG 2.0. In other words, when moving to WCAG 2.0, will it be acceptable to use accessible JavaScript or PDF, for example, without the need to provide an equivalent HTML (or RTF) alternative?

It should be noted, that although the press release refers directly to government websites, the Australian Disability Discrimination Commissioner has strongly supported the move so it seems very likely that the Human Rights Commission will extend the requirement to all websites.

I think the move to adopting WCAG 2.0 is great and overdue. It has the potential bring significant benefits to web developers and their clients as well as web users with disabilities, including those who rely on assistive technologies.

For more information:
WCAG 2.0 Guidelines (W3C)

WCAG 2.0 and Accessibility Supported (Roger Hudson)

Understanding Accessibility Support (WAI)

NOTE: I will be looking at how to comply with the key Single A and Double A Success Criteria during the WCAG 2.0 in Depth workshops in April and May.

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