Local Government: Practical accessibility steps

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Tuesday, 9 September 2014 15:50pm

Local councils have been urged to consider taking practical steps to improve the accessibility of their websites so that they can better meet their policy and legal compliance requirements.

Speaking ahead of his presentation on web accessibility at the Disability Inclusion and Liveable Communities Forum in Sydney on 12 September, Media Access Australia accessibility expert Dr Scott Hollier said meeting accessibility compliance was easier than many councils thought.

"A simple place for councils to begin improving accessibility is to look at their most popular services and make sure that these are accessible for people with disabilities—in particular making sure that their IT department has made their websites conformable to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0," he said.

"The benefit of this is that any improvements to accessibility for people with disabilities also help older members of the community, people from non-English-speaking backgrounds and people with varying education levels."

Dr Hollier said that typically, most residents of a local government area visited their council's website for information in a relatively small number of areas. These included:

  • Rubbish collection
  • Paying rates and fines
  • Pet registration
  • Library-related
  • Building applications
  • Community events
  • Contact information

"If improvements can be made to these commonly searched-for services then local councils can go a long way to meeting their accessibility requirements under law and government policy," he said.

In addition, councils could also look to training and building policy awareness of staff, using assistive technologies such as screen readers to better understand the user experience of people with disabilities, and look to develop accessible documents which were compatible with assistive technologies.

They could also draw on available resources such as the Service Providers Accessibility Guide, which shows organisations how they can adjust and adapt their existing office systems, programs and equipment so that they are accessible for people with disabilities, and look to professional development in accessibility.

According to Local Government NSW (LGNSW), the organisers of the event, there are many reasons local governments need to consider accessibility.

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