This site was developed to support the Government 2.0 Taskforce, which operated from June to December 2009. The Government responded to the Government 2.0 Taskforce's report on 3 May 2010. As such, comments are now closed but you are encouraged to continue the conversation at agimo.govspace.gov.au.

Accessibility for all or none?

2009 September 7
by Lisa Harvey

Accessibility has discussed on this blog before and it has been raised in all the public forums I have been to. It deserves more discussion.

Let me start with an example: A federal department said it would publish on-line the hundreds of documents received from a submissions process. Most were received in Word or PDF format. Government accessibility rules require all content to be published in HTML as well. The Department, understandably, did not have the resources to convert 300 submissions to HTML format. In the end none of the submissions were published on the departmental website.

The result of meeting the mandate was that access to substantial, valuable content was eliminated. I think the intent of the rules is to provide access for everyone.

Is this acceptable? If accessibility requirements cannot be met, does that mean that content or systems cannot go on-line?

There are 3 scenarios in the develoment of systems:
1- It is intrinsic to the process and accessibility is released with the system. This usually happens with systems designed with a specific audience in mind.
2- A system is released and then accessibility is developed later. This happens with systems that need a quick release or where the development budget is insufficient to include fully functional accessibility in the beginning.
3- Systems are released and accessibility is not considered important and not addressed for a long time.

Accessibility costs money. Putting a font re-sizer and alt tags on everything is just surface accessibility, and it is not just about screen-readers. Different access requirements create sometimes conflicting design requirements. For content-only sites it is a no brainer and content-only sites should have at least basic accessibility. Functional sites are more complicated, particularly for people using assistive technologies. Getting this right means understanding the audience and testing functionality with the audience. As you can imagine this can add a lot to setup costs.

In general the business sector will assess accessibility requirements based on the business case, which will include intended audience and CSR policies. The not-for-profit sector will implement requirements based on audience and available budget for the project.

Government, on the other hand, is mandated to provide accessibility in all online systems. There should be no argument about including accessibility in budgets for government projects.

How can government encourage intrinsic development or shorten the delay described in scenario 2? And how can government influence change in other sectors?

An important way that government can contribute to accessibility is by insisting that accessibility development done as part of a project is added back into the original software product. This is easy to do with Open Source systems, and will very quickly flow out to other installations of the software. This will have a powerful flow on effect for accessibility. For proprietary systems, perhaps government can insist that accessibility enhancements are provided to all other customers free of charge in the normal update process.

Perhaps also, systems with accessibility already built in could be preferred in the selection process.

Mechanisms such as this will mean that intrinsic design is more likely, more within reach of the not-for-profit sector and the business sector, and more often the standard practice. This moves all of us closer to 1 and reduces the time gap in 2. Will this work?

The digital engagement discussion is not just about systems installed or developed specifically for government, but also the use of existing, free or commercial, on-line systems for engagement. If these do not meet accessibility standards should they not be considered at all? The nature of digital engagement is more immediate and timeliness is important. Online timeframes are shorter and users are impatient. Sometimes this may mean that access for many will be available before access for all. Is this acceptable?

Another example is the recent Whitehouse Open Government Initiative which used tools that are not particularly accessible. It was clear that timeliness was important. Had they waited for government to develop accessible tools, or for the supplying companies to implement accessiblity the moment would have been lost.

31 Responses
  1. 2009 September 7

    Wonderful post Lisa congratulations. This subject is very close to my heart and I am very passionate about it. In my role as the ACT Adobe Products User Group Manager I come across the issue of accessibility on a regular basis, particularly regarding PDFs and Flash application development.

    Most high profile releases by Federal Government of PDF content is run through an accessiblity reporting tool by me and the Department is alerted by me to any which are inaccessible, and provided with the documentation for creating accessible PDF documents.

    In my experience it is a lack of knowledge and training which leads to accessibility not being addressed up front. I have previously provided advice to DIIRD in Victoria regarding assisting them in gaining knowledge and training to better implement accessibility when publishing content.

    Agencies would do well to allocate a large part of their training budgets to delivering accessibility training to their staff.

    Cheers,

    Rae

  2. 2009 September 7

    As someone who has worked in web development and user experience since the early days (I built my first commercial web site in 1997), I continue to be baffled why we persist with this argument.

    Accessibility is the law.

    No ifs, no buts, no maybes.

    We are required to provide accessible versions in all web sites developed in Australia (not just for government). If there was an active enforcement regime that actually had teeth, perhaps we’d stop ignoring this important issue. Start taking organisations that fail to provide adequately accessible solutions to court or fine them heavily, especially if their content is of real societal value.

    Excuses of resourcing, or forgetting, or failing to plan simply don’t cut it. Cries of “PDF is inaccessible” are demonstrably wrong. Accessibility requirements can always be met.

    • 2009 September 7
      Lisa Harvey permalink

      Accessibility requirements can always be met.

      I totally agree. The problem is that requirements are not met. So we need strategies for managing these situations (particularly when timeliness is an issue) and to advance the cause a the same time.

      • 2009 September 7

        Which is where I figured you were headed.

        A combination of good tools, improved practice, education of developers, clients and suppliers, workable short-term options for time sensitive cases and (as a last resort) enforcement are one possible recipe for success.

        Like all the questions the Taskforce sees itself met with, this one is neither simple or capable of being solved in the short term. I think an entire section of your report in December will be “issues of importance that we can’t solve here but that need ongoing attention”.

  3. 2009 September 7
    Gordon Grace permalink

    To pick up on the supplied example:

    A federal department said it would publish on-line the hundreds of documents received from a submissions process. Most were received in Word or PDF format. Government accessibility rules require all content to be published in HTML as well.

    Should these submissions (presumably received from the public) be subject to the law too? Or would a a quick-and-dirty automated PDF/DOC -> TXT/HTML conversion be ‘good enough’ for most purposes?

    I can’t imagine the pain that the australia2020.gov.au team would’ve undergone to manually ‘accessify’ the submissions they received from the public…

    @Stephen – have you (and possibly @rae) considered demonstrating the potential accessibility of well-authored PDFs to AHRC?

    If you could convince them, you may have momentum for more widespread adoption of this format (and the related training requirements) across government.

    • 2009 September 7

      Gordon, I’m not certain how the DDA deals with submissions, but it’s an interesting question to say the least.

      While obviously imperfect (we live in an imperfect world), the solution you suggest, or something similar, would probably suffice in many cases.

      Especially for projects with large submission volumes, the hurdle of submitters providing accessible materials needs to be reduced with post-submission tidy up. We spread the effort out across the continuum.

      I’m sure Rae and I would be delighted to demonstrate to AHRC how this can be done well.

    • 2009 September 7

      Happy to talk to you about this Gordon, there are a number of options for you to consider before applying law to the formats in which submissions are made.

      I am also more than happy to talk to Adobe about providing the APAC expert in PDF creation to AHRC for a demonstration and/or hands on workshop. I am more than happy to facilitate this in my User Group Manager Role.

      Cheers,

      Rae

  4. 2009 September 7
    Moira Clunie permalink

    With a bit of planning, the department in this example could have anticipated that it would be difficult to convert hundreds of submissions into HTML, and could have designed a process for originally receiving submissions in HTML instead (e.g. by requiring submitters to fill in a web form, rather than attaching a Word/PDF document to an email).

    This would cost money to set up once, but this same scenario must exist for every federal department, every time submissions are called for (even if they’re not ultimately shared online – e.g. if the documents they receive aren’t accessible, how would they manage if disabled staff needed to review them?) If departments are spending time converting documents into HTML/ accessible electronic formats, the payback for designing accessibility into the system would be immediate.

    This is not really an example of a situation where accessibility requirements “cannot” be met, it’s an example of bad process design that didn’t consider accessibility upfront.

    • 2009 September 7

      Moira, absolutely! Accessibility needs to be a built in rather than a bolt on.

      Plan for accessible content (for all values of accessibility, not just vision impaired users) at the start and you make the job much easier (note I don’t say easy, it’s not and we all know that).

    • 2009 September 7

      I had the same thought Moira – head it off at the pass. It might have limited the flexibility people had to include diagrams or rich text (although adding a basic, W3C-compliant WYSIWYG control would not be too hard) in their submissions but at least the information would be accessible. IMHO that is more important.

  5. 2009 September 7
    Mike Nelson permalink

    This is one reason proprietary binary formats should not be used by government – ever! By using XML-based open standards the content and style are separated. For a visually impaired person, it doesn’t matter whether the font or colour fits the corporate style guide so long as the content can be rendered on a screen reader or Braille browser. If the content is in an XML-based format, an XSLT can make it available as plain text for any form of assistive technology.

    “Accessibility” isn’t limited to assistive technology for disabilities. What about mobile devices? Try viewing most government web sites on a mobile phone. A few like the National Public Toilet Map display well on a mobile device (see the dotMobi emulation) but others are not so easy to read and some are even outright useless. Trying to find storm warnings or travel advisories, things which might save your life, on a mobile device is less successful. This needs to be addressed in any discussion about accessibility to ensure any life saving information is accessible from a mobile phone.

  6. 2009 September 7
    Hamish permalink

    Stephen Collins is right. An active enforcement regime with powers to direct Government agencies and meaningful consequences for non-compliance. In my experience here in NZ its hard enough to get management to even realise that they are under-resourcing their web initiatives, let alone provide distinct budget for accessibility.

    • 2009 September 7
      Gordon Grace permalink

      WCAG gets a lot of focus – perhaps it’s time to bring ATAG into the spotlight?

      This specification provides guidelines for Web authoring tool developers. Its purpose is two-fold: to assist developers in designing authoring tools that produce accessible Web content and to assist developers in creating an accessible authoring interface.

      • 2009 September 7

        WCAG and ATAG are important. Better is education – of developers (I used to make it mandatory for my development teams to understand their obligations under DDA and develop to them) and of clients (agencies,etc.) and of providers (digital agencies) and specification – put accessibility into tender documents and ensure providers deliver against it.

        • 2009 September 7
          Lisa Harvey permalink

          put accessibility into tender documents and ensure providers deliver against it

          This is an important way of advancing the cause, but it has to be more than a line that says: “WCAG compliant”. It must also explain what level of user testing, whether there are particular audiences to cater for, and how content will be managed and so on.

          • 2009 September 7

            Of course. Documents I have written or contributed to (this is the tiny version of what is usually paragraphs) include:

            - WCAG expectations
            - DDA requirements
            - testing regime (tools and pass levels)
            - general usability needs
            - types of accessibility (structured docs, screen reader testing, keyboard navigation, scalable text in CSS, etc.)

            Never simple, often ignored or considered too hard.

      • 2009 September 7
        Mike Nelson permalink

        WCAG 2.0 has received a lot of criticism from the accessibility community for being overly complicated and just not practical enough to use in the real world. The result is there are a lot of false assertions of WCAG compliance out there, not through any deliberate misrepresentation but through misunderstanding because it is so complex.

        Better models to look at would be the Canadian government’s Common Look and Feel for the Internet 2.0 or the British Standards Institution’s PAS 78 which are clear, simple and practical.

        Another possibility is to look at ISO 24751 which is designed for e-learning but could be adapted for other uses. It is about how to make computer-mediated learning environment “accessible” by matching the digital resources and interface tools to a learner’s needs. There is no reason the same principles couldn’t be applied to any information delivery environment. There is already a standard vocabulary for digital resource description in in ISO 24751-3.

  7. 2009 September 7

    There have already been some comments about the requirements of accessibility, it is indeed the law that these materials be provided in forms that are accessible to those using assistive technologies. I think that at the end of the day Lisa’s options 2 and 3 are in breech of this requirement and are unacceptable. The fact that many sites: personal, corporate and government have been created without any kind of accessibility checking is as much indicative of those who build the web sites as those who commission them.

    Having recently been through a tendering process to build a new website at my employer, it was important to us to include accessibility requirements into the Request For Tender. Through the process it was pointed out that this should not have been necessary, however I pushed to include it in order to be specific about this requirement, and to be seen to be promoting standards compliance and accessibility as measurable requirements. I have faith in our chosen developer to deliver on this requirement.

    The question being how many designers out there also pay attention to this. Others in my organisation are correct, we shouldn’t need to be including this as a requirement. It should just be automatically included in any developers tools. It should, but personal experience shows me that this is frequently not the case.

    In previous blog posts there seems to have been a bit of focus on the “Government accessibility rules require all content to be published in HTML as well”, which I think is very prescriptive, and in terms of government agencies I have cause to deal with, it’s certainly not followed. I don’t deal too much with departments, so I won’t vouch for how this is followed there, but a number of agencies certainly don’t do that. Certainly Stephen and Rae are correct to point out that a well formed PDF is totally accessible, I’d rather take a broader approach.

    Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, but the point of this discussion is to find ways to make government more open and transparent by using ICT based tools. People have been talking about what data can be made available and how this might best be done. Certainly raw data is being talked about here, but this principle is equally well applied to a variety of documents.

    In both cases we’re generally about getting at content. The question then become about using the best tool to distribute that content, and the best tool will allow that content to be accessed across a variety of interfaces, be that by operating system, full screen, mobile, magnified on screen, spoken via screen reader, output in Braille, navigable through voice and a variety of other requirements.

    Does properly marked up HTML do this? Properly marked up PDF? XML? Open Document? Word Document?

    After that, which is the best tool for the job? The prescriptive nature of the HTML requirement is not necessarily beneficial, and a result from the example given: that nothing is published is not in anyone’s interest. Any requirements on the government, its departments and agencies has to be flexible enough to allow those administering process to publish easily in the most appropriate format in the most accessible way. If that’s PDF, then fine, if it’s XML, that’s fine.

    The task of choosing appropriate formats is probably a fairly extensive task on which a group of people could spend a lot of time. At this point I’d conclude by saying:

    All web sites must be built with in built accessibility. It’s already the law. If government can promote or enhance tools for use by other sectors, then that’s an excellent outcome, but it not a requirement. At the end of the day information needs to be distributed in the most appropriate format, and part of making a format appropriate is its accessibility. Sometimes HTML will be the right solution, but having it rigidly prescribed is not really the right solution.

    • 2009 September 7

      Options 2 & 3 might be unacceptable at a systems level but for example is the Parliamentary Webcast (http://webcast.aph.gov.au/livebroadcasting/) in breach because it is not transcribed and published as text in real-time?

      • 2009 September 7

        I think not in this case as I don’t believe there is a tool which is capable of doing this. However, this could be overcome with somebody live blogging the event?

  8. 2009 September 7
    Liddy Nevile permalink

    I would like to add my voice to the call for the law to be observed and, in this case, I believe that means that it should not be legal for government, or any other public organisations, to provide their content developers with tools that produce inaccessible content by default. Currently most organisatins do this. If the intention is to include everyone in the information age, I believe having tools that ‘do the right thing’ is the first, simplest and most effective step. Of course, not everyone will be able to access everything but the second step is to think and add metadata to show what is possible with the content – video-only? video plus text transcript? video but there’s a transcript at …., etc… I consider that the WCAG approach is not working, even though WCAG is essential to what I am proposing for those who can use it ‘raw’!

  9. 2009 September 7
    Dey Alexander permalink

    Good comment from @Moira Clunie. If we really want to address accessibility, a lot more planning needs to happen, across a larger slice of our organisations’ activities than merely publishing online.

    There are many things that can adversely affect accessibility, and they all need to be addressed if we really are serious about accessibility and want good outcomes.

    Here’s a list for starters:

    * Decision makers or influencers need education/awareness raising so they are aware when they may make decisions than can affect accessibility
    * Procurement policy (software and services) needs to address accessibility
    * Selection of development, design, collaboration, authoring tools (mentioned in part by @Liddy Nevile) need to consider accessibility
    * Systems, software and web development, customisation and integration needs to cover accessibility
    * Selection process and job descriptions need to cover accessibility for any role that touches the design/content production process
    * Staff training for all those who can impact on accessibility (not just the web folk)

    As others have mentioned, if there is more effort up front, the costs are lower and we get better results.

  10. 2009 September 7
    Dan permalink

    While all the discussion above is “nice” .. To get back to the question at hand that was asked twice in the article ..

    The result of meeting the mandate was that access to substantial, valuable content was eliminated … is this acceptable?

    Absolutely NOT. Accessibility means EVERYBODY has access.. not just those with additional needs.. something not being published (either at all or in a timely fashion) means that potentially NOBODY has access, and that it simply isn’t good enough. If those 300 documents had been published, then there was at least a chance for somebody who couldn’t access them *easily* being able to ask somebody to access and convert them on their behalf. Or somebody who thought it was important enough could have summarised the key points and republished a summary in a more accessible format… But now they aren’t available at all, nobody wins.

    Online timeframes are shorter and users are impatient. Sometimes this may mean that access for many will be available before access for all. Is this acceptable?

    Damn straight its acceptable, for many of the same reasons.. while time and/or money shouldn’t be used as an excuse to never do anything about accessibility in a government department, using the additional costs as an excuse not to do something AT ALL is far worse..

    This is a classic case of working to the lowest common denominator, and given that the only “fair” way was apparently access for nobody, then that is a pretty low point indeed!

    Mandate for inclusion in developer tools, enforce inclusion in the goverment procurement process, and even (although i don’t think it will help) give somebody a big stick to wield.. but do not let this issue slow down the openness that this taskforce seems like it might just have a chance of delivering..

  11. 2009 September 7

    (1) Generating HTML from .pdf, .doc, .odt, .rtf, and static versions of spreadsheets or presentations is trivial. (”Save as…html” from office suits does the trick, and writing a script to do a bulk conversion wouldn’t take more than an hour – and the code distributable to all agencies). The are quite a few utilities to tidy up the output into well-formed xhtml, and then apply any stylesheets required to make the documents suitable for any audience, and .pdf to .html conversion tools, while not perfect, are adequate and have been around for many years.

    (2) For short and simple documents, there is no reason why html is not the default authoring format.

    (3) AGIMO’s fairly complex document management system was designed to be accessible from the start (along with compliance to all appropriate regulations, not just accessibility). It was whitebranded, opensourced, and has been available to all agencies at no cost for a few years. For selecting and presenting from a large volume of documents, this should be the default unless a different product demonstrates clear value over the AGIMO tool.

    (4) Ever since the release of WCAG 1, there have been enterprise-strength tools to scan entire sites for inaccessible html. There is little reason why volume licensing arrangements couldn’t make these tools available to all agencies for a reasonable cost.

    (5) Any delay in making available accessible content usually indicates that “visual spin” has won over substance. Besides, generating eye-candy is more costly than generating straightforward documents.

    (6) There is a similar issue with providing information to people with poor bandwidth – who are expected to waste time (and money) bringing overly glitzy webpages over the wire – or especially for those (often the poorest) relying on mobile phones, which if they can connect to the web, usually can only deal with html, not the other formats.

    (7) In the case of submissions being made accessible, it shouldn’t be too difficult as all are eyeballed anyway. Conversion to html should only add another few seconds to the task.

    (8) Where timeliness of publication is critical, perfect rendering is not absolutely necessary, (the standard of live captioning for news broadcasts on television is probably at the lower end of acceptable). A simple caveat that the text might be revised and republished is probably all that is required.

    (9) And total agreement with all who have expressed thing along the lines of “it’s the law, stupid”.

  12. 2009 September 8

    Regarding the documents mentioned – Google automatically converts PDFs and docs to HTML versions for viewing online. Output isn’t pretty – but it works. So why should government departments spend hundreds of hours of man-power manually converting what can be done quicker and cheaper (in this case free) by automated systems?

    Buy or develop and deploy a whole-of-government document conversion technology which allows embedding of the output into specific government sites and you’ve suddenly lowered the agency-level overhead for meeting this specific accessibility requirement.

    Alternatively, provide effective online submission systems such that organisations need never submit documents in formats which cannot be easily provided in accessible ways.

    The largest issue I have encountered around accessibility is the low level of knowledge across government on what accessibility means and how to deliver it.

    This isn’t simply amongst web teams (technical, design or content), but is at management levels – the people who allocate budgets and decide on the priorities.

    These managers need to understand their legal obligations around accessibility and be provided with both a stick (an effective watchdog) and a carrot (accessibility awards and recognition – both personally and financially for their agency).

    If agencies redevelop all their websites to achieve a given (not low) bar of accessibility, grant them extra dollars as a reward for saving the Government money in terms of potential legal defense fees and media management.

    Why not a rating system for accessibility in Australian websites – similar to the rating for electrical appliances?

    • 2009 September 8
      Gordon Grace permalink

      Craig, Dave – thanks for your responses.

      @Dave:

      .pdf to .html conversion tools, while not perfect, are adequate and have been around for many years.

      @Craig:

      Google automatically converts PDFs and docs to HTML versions for viewing online. Output isn’t pretty – but it works.

      I was hoping to pick up on the ‘good enough’ issue surrounding these approaches. Even the whole-of-government Agency Search service converts PDF/DOC to plain vanilla text for public consumption as these documents are indexed (not as they’re uploaded).

      By this reasoning, is the simplest solution to ‘do nothing’ about making accessible versions of these files – because external search engines (and their HTML versions of binary documents) are already doing it for us?

      While this may be acceptable to certain audiences, has anyone attempted to throw these automatically-converted, simplified forms of often complex documents against a stringent accessibility test suite?

      (These are genuine questions, and I’m making no attempt to be antagonistic).

      • 2009 September 8

        Hi Gordon,

        I have run a google cached Fed Gov page and a Google Document Fed Gov document through an accessibility checker and these formats are most definitely not accessible and therefore not usable.

        Cheers,

        Rae

  13. 2009 September 9

    Hi eveyrone

    After reading through the posts, I just wanted to add a few thoughts both from the perspective of my role at MAA and as a person with a disability.

    Firstly, it’s important to ackowledge that unfortunatley there is no mandate, nor DDA requirement for accessibility in Australia, unlike the US, the EU and many other countries around the world. Yes, there is some good policies at both state and Federal level, but there is nothing that requires these policies to be enforced, and the DDA doesn’t specifically discuss the IT needs of people with disabilities. As a result, if the government choses to do nothing on the online accessibility front, they are not in breach of anything and hence inacessible government information continues to go online.

    Should an additional legislative framework on IT access be established, perhaps through the DDA, I believe it would make a profound difference as government information would actually be required to produce its information online, and when the government issues tenders for projects – such as the recent ‘Broadband for Seniors’ initiative – it would specific accessibility in the tender process and ensured that accessibility was built-in, not built-on as an earlier post mentioned. It would also be good given the upcoming NBN rollout and the services which will be delivered along hte 100Mb/s pipeline.

    Secondly, I agree 100% with the need to provide support to developers with access, and if there are any developers out there who would like help with the implenetation of ATAG and WCAG, I’d be happy to help and I’ve put a variety of resources specifically for developers on the MAA website, http://www.mediaaccess.org.au in the ‘New Media’ section.

    Thirdly, while on the topic of WCAG, it would be good if the Australian government could start the transition towards WCAG 2.0. A few arguments in favour of the move would include the fact that it focuses more on the abilit for people to achieve what they need from a website rather than technical compliance of 10 year old echnologies, it’s been around for nine monehts now and the fact that major accessibility legal cases, such as the recent HSBC accessibility settlement, are based on WCAG 2.0. What do others think?

    Also, just to enter the PDF accessibility discussion: the accessibility of a PDF varies greatly depending on how a PDF is created. Yes, Google can convert PDFs to HTML if the PDF is created in a particular way, but it’s an uphill batle if the PDF is of a scanned document, which is now government generally convert paper copies of things to go online. As others have mentioned, perhaps the time has come for government submissions to all be done online in an accesible file format?

    Finally, MAA has recently laucnhed an initiative to support people who are interested in web accessibility to have a voice in addressing accessibiit issues on government websites. It is called AWARe – the Australian Web Access Review, http://www.aware.org.au. Each month we put five websites up for review, and visitors to the site can answer some simple questions based on WCAG 2.0. The more people that do it, the more accurate the results and this provides clear information as to where the accessibility issues of government websites are, and provides us with an opportunity to work with government to fix them. There’s also a discussion forum which has just been set up, and it would be great if you oculd all participate in this initiative and share your thoughts on it. New sites are put up for review every month.

    Thank you,

    Dr Scott Hollier
    Project Manager, New Media
    Media Access Australia

  14. 2009 September 9

    Hi Nick

    The following appears as a post in my GReader, but is not visible on this site?
    Is there a reason it has been removed or ‘censored’, as it’s one which I’d like to share with a colleague. Allison

    The Vox Pop 2.0 Learning Journey
    from Government 2.0 Taskforce by Nicholas Gruen

    We’ve just finished a couple of weeks of full on touring the country. There’s more to come, but we’ve visited Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide. I’m in the States this week and then we’ll get onto some regional visits. I think there’s a bit of a buzz about. Of course what really matters is if we live up to it, but so far so good. My last visit comprised a great couple of sessions in Adelaide with some great discussion – for instance on whether or not identity and authentication was a Web 1.0 or a Web 2.0 issue. Taskforce member Glenn Archer and I didn’t agree to start with, but I think we managed to work it out as we discussed it. And is ‘joined up government’ even possible? And what role can Web 2.0 play in helping to join up government.

    We took recordings of those sessions we could and we’re hoisting them up here. Now within government this raises some ticklish questions. Since we haven’t recorded all the sessions, some people could complain that they’ve got the rough end of the pineapple (either by virtue of being recorded or not, depending on their perspective). More importantly it would be best to be able to post the recordings with transcripts, particularly for those who need these to properly access the material (for instance for hearing impaired people). But we have the recording now. So since we have plans to get a transcript into existence should we wait till the transcript is available before we release the MP3s. That seems silly to us. So we’re releasing the MP3s when we can.

    And in fact that can help us generate the transcripts.

    * Perhaps you are willing to help transcribe them into text in a range of languages to improve their accessibility for domestic and international purposes, or have another suggestion in this area?
    * Perhaps you can suggest an audio format that would produce smaller files (still with clear audio)?
    * Perhaps you can suggest an innovative way of analysing these sizeable chunks of information to uncover some common threads or new insights?
    * Perhaps you have had previous difficulties accessing government information online and know of helpful tools and technologies we can use for this and other such transcription tasks.

    If you have an idea to suggest, then post it as a comment below or email it to contact@gov2.net.au by the end of next week – 5PM Friday 18 September. Please don’t send us any commercial proposals though – this is strictly an experiment in crowdsourcing and collaboration (and another chapter in our attempt to learn by doing, something it seems to me governments need to get more comfortable doing if we’re ever going to get Government 2.0 living up to its potential).

    And if we can’t crowdsource or collaborate to find a solution, we have a backup plan.

    Taskforce Roadshow audio files

  15. 2009 September 18

    Hi

    Many thanks for the post and the comments. I would like to just pick up on two points.

    First, I don’t think Scott is strictly correct when he says there is no DDA requirement for accessibility in Australia. The DDA (1992) clearly states, “It is unlawful for a person who, whether for payment or not, provides goods or services, or makes facilities available, to discriminate against another person on the ground of the other person’s disability“. And through the efforts of the Australian Human Rights Commission (formally HREOC) it is equally clear that the Act applies to a whole range of situations including employment, education, transport and the use of internet technologies. However, I do agree that it would be beneficial to have something with a little more muscle, and incorporating the need for web content and authoring tool accessibility into the whole area of Government procurement is probably worth serious consideration. Something similar to Section 508 in the US.

    Second, I think there is a general misunderstanding about the notion of “Accessibility Supported” within WCAG 2.0. I believe the WCAG 2.0 technological neutrality approach is a good one and should be adopted by the regulators in Australia. We should be concerned with making sure materials are accessible rather than the technology used. As already mentioned, PDF is a format that can be accessible and in some circumstances maybe the most appropriate format to use – so I believe we should require developers to make their PDFs accessible, rather than following the ten year old WCAG 1.0 model which in effect said we don’t care what you do with your PDFs because you must provide a HTML alternative. In this regard, I do not believe the New Zealand model is a good one to follow, since it provides little or no incentive for developers to improve the way they use non-W3C formats such as PDF and JavaScript.

    A couple of months ago, I wrote an article “Adopting WCAG 2.0” which looks at the approach taken by different countries. Some readers might find this interesting also the comments include links to specific information.

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