Meeting stricter web guidelines

By Lilia Guan
All government agencies must meet the Federal Government’s first deadline for a comprehensive review of their websites by December this year.
Earlier this year the Australian government endorsed the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) version 2.0 for all government websites. This requirement supersedes the previous mandate for compliance with WCAG 1.0.
Accessibility requirements for websites are mandated under government policy, legislation, and through whole-of-government commitments.
The Online and Communications Council (OCC) endorsed WCAG 2.0, required all federal, state and territory websites to conform to the guidelines to meet WCAG 2.0 Level A by December 2012.
The Secretaries' ICT Governance Board (SIGB) extended the requirement for federal government to conform to WCAG 2.0 Level AA by December 2014.
Web specialist, Stamford Interactive has been actively involved with various agencies to help them meet the first phase of the guideline by 2010.
The company’s web accessibility specialist, Kim Chatterjee told Government News agencies must be able to meet the first phase – Preparation – to determine their readiness to undergo the transition and implementation, by the end of December 2010.
“In the past we had to tell these departments that their sites had to be accessible to everyone,” she said.
“Now these agencies are coming to us to help them improve/enhance their site.”
Ms Chatterjee said Stamford Interactive has worked with the Department of Immigration, Centrelink and the Australian Tax Office on their websites.
Department of Human Services, Portfolio Communication Division, National Manager, Communication Development and Management Branch, Richard Filing, told Government News that Centrelink has taken the issue of web accessibility very seriously.
“It is important because we want to ensure that all of our customers have equal access to services and information regardless of their situation or disability,” he said.
“We also recognise that making web content accessible is good practice in terms of general usability.”
Mr Filing said it planned to transition all websites to conform to the guidelines by enforcing a set of strict standards that must be followed when developing any new content and over time Centrelink will decommission or archive outdated and inaccessible content.
“Our strategy is to make our websites even more accessible to the public,” Mr Filing said.
“Whether this is done by the means of assistive technology tools like, screen readers for hearing impaired, or the older Australians with some limitations with visual impairments.”
Centrelink also planned to offer alternative options in the way content can be viewed or heard, keyboard shortcuts, captions on video, correct use of colour and contrast, easy to navigate throughout the websites and readable and understandable content.
“Meeting the WCAG 2.0 timelines will be a challenge for Government agencies particularly those with a broad range of online transactional services such as Centrelink,” Mr Filing said.

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