The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) been instrumental in providing concrete standards to support government web accessibility. The W3C released the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), with the release of version 1.0 in 1999 and version 2.0 in 2008.
In February 2010, the Commonwealth Government committed to making all its websites compliant with WCAG 2.0 by 2014.
Adoption and implementation details were released by Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) on 30th June, 2010, as part of the Web Accessibility National Transition Strategy.
The Commonwealth Government will require all Commonwealth, State, and Territory Government websites to conform to the Single A level of WCAG 2.0 by the end of 2012. All Commonwealth Government websites must conform to the Double A level of WCAG 2.0 by the end of 2014. States and Territories may elect to conform to Double or Triple A levels.
This applies to all websites, including departmental intranets and private extranets, subject to stringent exemptions and opt-out policies (Commonwealth Government only).
There are three phases in the National Transition Strategy:
- Preparation Phase: July 2010 to December 2010
- Transition Phase: January 2011 to December 2011
- Implementation Phase: completed by December 2012 (Single A) and December 2014 (Double A)
Agencies will be required to conduct their own assessment and review of their websites and form their own implementation strategies with advice and guidance from AGIMO.
Commonwealth Government agencies will be required to report to AGIMO, while State and Territory Government agencies will deal with jurisdictional representative agencies
AGIMO (part of the Department of Finance and Deregulation) was tasked with developing a whole-of-government strategy, primarily for federal government websites, for transition to WCAG 2.0.
AGIMO was also tasked to lead a cross-jurisdictional project, on behalf of states and territories, to coordinate the national implementation of WCAG 2.0. The Secretaries’ ICT Governance Board, a group of departmental secretaries in related portfolio areas, is the project’s sponsor.
While AGIMO has directed State and Territory governments to adopt WCAG 2.0, technically it as no jurisdiction over them. However, all but one State government has now publicly agreed to adopt WCG 2.0 A, although timelines differ slightly.
- Victoria, NSW, Northern Territory and ACT have agreed to comply with requirements fully, making WCAG 2.0 A mandatory by 31 December 2012, and WCAG 2.0 AA by 31 December 2014.
- Queensland has already implemented WCAG 2.0 A and WCAG 2.0 AA (although it has excluded guideline 1.2, which states that live video must be captioned, and pre-recorded video must be audio described).
- Western Australia has agreed to comply with requirements fully, but will implement both WCAG 2.0 A and WCAG 2.0 AA by 31 December 2013.
- Tasmania has agreed to implement WCAG 2.0, but has not specified a date yet.
- South Australia has not yet announced whether it will comply with the requirements.
There is practically no regulation of access to digital technology in Australia. There are, however, flow on effects from international policies requiring access, in particular the United States' approach to accessibility regulation.
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