Digital Gap pushes for change by 2017

Friday, 13 November 2015 13:38pm

The call for improvement to digital accessibility for people with disabilities moved to Parliament House in Canberra with a call for significant change to happen by 2017, which is the 25th anniversary of the Disability Discrimination Act.

Two glass jars of peanut butter. Smooth on the left and crunchy on the right.

The Digital Gap Initiative Event was introduced by Greens Senator Rachel Siewert who was one of the co-sponsors of the event (along with Senator Jo Lindgren from the Liberal Party and Senator Carol Brown from the Labor Party). It was held on 12 November coinciding with World Usability Day.

Around 60 people attended the event, made up of disability advocates, accessibility industry suppliers, government agencies, politicians and their advisors.

Gisele Mesnage, founder of the Digital Gap Initiative, launched the event playfully using two jars of peanut butter from Coles supermarket to discuss the need for hard (or “crunchy”) laws to work alongside the softer approach of implementation (or “smooth”). Her original complaint that started the process was against Coles for its failure to make the online shopping portal accessible (which has since been addressed).

Lainey Feingold, a Californian civil rights lawyer who specialises in digital accessibility cases, appeared by video congratulating the Digital Gap Initiative on its success so far and outlining her own experience in the area.

A panel session moderated by Ted McCoskey from Digital Gap Initiative was the main part of the event, with a range of experts discussing issues and insights into digital accessibility.

Sarah Pulis from PWC and Greg Barnett from Access HQ talked about the need for integration of accessibility in the user experience and inclusion in the initial stages of creating websites and digital content. Roger Sniezek from Coles outlined its approach following Gisele Mesnage’s complaint and how it now properly integrates testing and accessibility in its digital processes. This approach was reinforced by Johmar Gazo from the National Australia Bank as being good business sense for any organisation, but especially one that draws its customer base from the entire population. He also outlined the work that the bank was undertaking in improving internal process for staff with disabilities.

The disabled consumer perspective was highlighted by Digital Gap Initiative member James Newton, who has a vision impairment. Through his work in the Tasmanian TAFE system he sees the practical frustrations in trying to secure accessible content for disabled students, as well as his own needs in the workplace.

The technicality of standards and how to implement them was reviewed by Andrew Arch from the Federal Digital Transformation Office. IBM’s Christos Petrou brought his detailed technical knowledge to bear to outline the automation of processes and how standards are a good starting point, but the implementation is the key. Media Access Australia’s Alex Varley also commented on his wide experience of implementation of accessibility standards and pointed out that getting started and simplifying a process was vitally important, rather than getting bogged down in minute details of standards. He pointed out that the lessons learned from implementing other standards, such as DVDs and television, could help the process for digital accessibility.

“The Digital Gap event showed that the real focus needs to be on implementation and engagement with law makers, suppliers and people with disabilities. The parallel I would draw is the work that we have started with the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Our Service Providers Accessibility Guide shows an easy-to-understand, practical pathway for dealing with digital accessibility in ways that organisations can implement quickly.”

You may also like:

  • Information on access to the web, covering accessible media, browsers, social media and more
  • Digital technology accessibility, covering desktop, mobiles, wearables, e-readers, gaming and assistive technology
  • Our sister website Access iQ, providing practical know-how and resources for web developers, designers and digital content specialists
  • Media Access Australia's Digital Accessibility Services, providing specialist services to help organisations achieve accessibility standards for websites, apps, processes and communications
  • Our Accessible Document Service, providing fast, reliable and accurate options to help you ensure document accessibility standards

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