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Mainstream organisations

Who is responsible?

In many mainstream organisations the implementation of digital access is left to a few advocates that are only recognised for their work when a crisis occurs. It may be the case that a complaint has been received, or a Minister has required accessibility information from a government department, or a tender requires evidence that the WCAG accessibility standard is being addressed. In these circumstances, a bottom-up, ad-hoc approach to digital access can be expensive, time-consuming and a distraction from the core functions of your staff.

A better way is to focus on a top-down model where staff understand how digital access can be incorporated into their work practices. This means that accessibility is not a ‘bolt-on’ requirement but rather just a part of everyday processes. When staff in your organisation understand how to make digital access happen in their role, it becomes more about improving the efficiency of existing processes rather than adding additional work.

role specific information

Senior Managers

The good news is that there is very clear guidance on what your staff will need to do in order for people with disability to effectively engage with your content. This is thanks to the internationally recognised WCAG standard. The following sections of this resource will help ICT professionals, content producers and marketing and communications teams in making sure that their work meets this standard so that the commitment to digital access is organisation-wide and a shared responsibility.

Tips for addressing digital access issues:

The following tips can help you support your staff as they transition to the inclusion of digital access processes.

1. Understand your policy obligations.
There are several international, national and state-based policies that are likely to apply to your organisation’s digital access requirements. You can find out more in the policy section of the resource and read about some legal precedents that have shaped the way mainstream organisations have responded to complaints.

2. Provide time for staff to transition.
The WCAG standard is quite a dense and technical resource, so it can take time for it to be integrated into work practices. Ensure that staff are given enough time to learn the new ways of doing their work. Once the new processes are understood, the time it takes for staff to complete their work will begin to return to normal.

3. ICT staff will need the most guidance.
While all roles will need to understand their part of digital access, it is the ICT staff that will do most of the heavy lifting. This is due to the bulk of the WCAG standard being focused on ICT professionals and the need to check that online content such as websites remains accessible.

4. Consider training to help speed up the transition.
There are a number of digital access professionals that can run training for your staff to help speed up the transition process. While this resource will help in providing guidance to staff, training can improve the integration of digital access into work processes and highlight to staff your support of the transition process.

5. Be mindful of overcommitting to the WCAG standard.
The current requirement by the Australian Human Rights Commission is to follow the guidance of the WCAG 2.0 standard to Level AA. While it is possible to go to the higher Level AAA, there are several additional criteria that are likely to add significant time and cost to the work of your staff. There may be times when these additional criteria need to be considered, but it is recommended that these be considered on a case-by-case basis such as providing additional support for projects that focus on people who are Deaf or people with a cognitive disability.

6. Implement a complaints handling process.
If a complaint about digital access was made to your organisation, where would it go? It is often the case that large organisations do not have a specific mechanism for handling digital access complaints. Consider how a complaint would be handled if it came in via a phone call, email or social media request. If a complaint is received, ensure that the complaint is taken seriously and endeavour to address it with regular updates to the complainant.

7. Update your DAIP.
Always ensure that your Disability Access and Inclusion Plan (DAIP) is up to date with digital access requirements so that everyone in your organisation understands what their responsibilities are in the provision of digital access.

Content Producers

In a typical office environment, every staff member is likely to be a content producer at some point. Some staff may have more speciality roles such as directly writing content to be published on a website while others will mainly work on documents hosted on computers or tablets. Regardless of which role best applies to you, the internationally recognised WCAG standard can provide guidance to makes sure your content is accessible.

If you are unfamiliar with how people with disability will engage with your work, a good place to start is to read the What is assistive technology section and try out the practical exercise so you can better understand how content is experienced by people with disability in different ways.

To get an understanding as to the expectations of content accessibility in your role read through the sections relating to What is WCAG and the WCAG overview. The first 11 of the 12 guidelines listed are likely to apply to your work when producing content.

If you work on publishing content directly to the web, you can use the Achieving WCAG Level AA section to provide a reference point as to the specific requirements of your role. If your work is more focused on the use of documents such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint and the creation of PDFs, you will find some useful tips in the WCAG and documents section.

Marketing and Communications

Marketing and communications staff are often tasked with the delivery of organisational messaging directly to people with disability. To ensure that the communications across email, online content and social media are effective, the internationally recognised WCAG standard can help provide guidance.

If you are unfamiliar with how people with disability will engage with your work, a good place to start is to read the What is assistive technology section and try out the practical exercise so you can better understand how content is experienced by people with disability in different ways.

To get an understanding as to the expectations of content accessibility in your role read through the sections relating to What is WCAG and the WCAG overview. The main guidelines that apply to your role include 1.1, 1.2, 1.4, 2.4, 3.1 and 3.2. Issues generally associated with these guidelines include the need for good colour contrast, the inclusion of captions in video content, ensuring that important images have alternative text, that links with phrases such as ‘click here’ and ‘read more’ are replaced with more descriptive links and all information is clearly written. Although these are the more common aspects of WCAG to be relevant in your role, it is recommended that you have an awareness of the first 11 of the 12 guidelines.

To find out more, refer to the How do I achieve the WCAG Standard? section which can provide specific guidance on these areas. If your work involves social media, you can find some useful tips in the WCAG and social media section.

wcag and documents

How does WCAG apply to documents?

Many popular document formats including Microsoft Word, Microsoft PowerPoint, Microsoft Excel and PDF files can be created with accessibility in mind. However, it is often the case that staff in mainstream organisations are not aware of what techniques to use to make accessibility happen. This is particularly true in the creation of PDF files.

While there is some debate over the applicability of WCAG to documents, the reality is that most WCAG guidelines can be directly applied to documents and that such files are likely to go online at some point making their accessibility critical.

Examples of WCAG in documents can include alternative text, captioned video and good colour contrast. Furthermore, many authoring tools are developed in accordance with the W3C Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines (ATAG). This standard is designed to make sure that people with disability can create content, and that any content created can turn out accessible.

This section is designed to help you prepare your documents in an accessible way before they are distributed or put online.

Microsoft Office accessibility

The Microsoft Office suit, including Office 2016 and Office 365, contains many accessibility features. Tips include making sure that all images have alternative text, ensuring that styles are used to provide a proper heading structure and the use of captions in any video presentations. You can find additional information on the accessibility of Word documents, accessibility of Excel spreadsheets and the accessibility of PowerPoint presentations from the Microsoft website.

To check if your Word, Excel or PowerPoint file is accessible, you can follow these instructions in Office 365:

  1. Open your Word, Excel or PowerPoint file
  2. Select the “Review’ tab
  3. Select the ‘Check Accessibility’ button

Older versions of Office may still have this feature but located in different places. Once the file has been checked, a list of issues will be presented for you to address. You can repeat the steps above to check your progress on resolving the issues.

PDF accessibility

The accessibility of PDF files remains a hotly contested issue in the disability community. This is primarily due to the ease in which PDF files are often rendered completely inaccessible, removing any chance of assistive technologies from being able to use them. However, if PDF files are prepared correctly, it is possible to make the documents accessible.

Tips to improve PDF accessibility include:

  • Never use scanned PDF files. The scanning process turns the document into one big image which assistive technologies find difficult to interpret. If a PDF file has already been created from a scan, consider using Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software to extract the text.
  • Use PDF creation tools that comply with PDF/UA ISO standard. The PDF/UA standard has been created so that developers of PDF tools can ensure that documents are created in an accessible way.
  • Create documents from an accessible source: If you are making a PDF from another file format such as the Word, Excel or PowerPoint formats discussed above, the PDF will be much more accessible if it is made from an accessible source document. If you are creating a PDF from an Office document, use the accessibility tool as discussed above to maximise the accessibility of the document, then create the PDF from the accessible source.
  • Use Adobe Acrobat accessibility features: if you use Adobe Acrobat, there are several accessibility features present to help make the document more accessible. Additional information can be found at the Adobe Accessibility website.

wcag and social media

How does WCAG apply to social media?

Social media platforms represent an important mechanism for mainstream organisations to communicate announcements to people with disability and to make online interactions more conversational. Until recently, the accessibility of social media platforms was largely inaccessible, but this has improved significantly with large companies endeavouring to make their portals and apps WCAG complaint.

To maximise your social media reach for people with disability, the following tips have been provided.

Social media accessibility tips

  • The best social media tools that include accessibility elements are Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. In addition to their web portals being reasonably WCAG compliant and respective mobile apps accessible, they also provide the ability to add accessibility features to content.
  • YouTube has an automated captioning feature located in the Settings that will add captions to your video. However, while the timing may be accurate, the captions may suffer from quality issues. As such, you may need to edit the captions to ensure their accuracy using this method.
  • Facebook provides support for captioned video, so ensure that all video content on Facebook is captioned.
  • There are several free online tools that can assist in adding accessibility to social media video content. Two examples include the Amara captioning tool and You Describe audio description tool.
  • When tweeting images, ensure that the tweet provides a good description of the image.

When creating a page in Facebook, ensure that good colour contrast is used and that images have alternative text.

The Centre for Accessibility is a joint project by Media on Mars, DADAA and Dr Scott Hollier and is funded by the Department of Communities, Disability Services.

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