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3 May 2023

A new advisory note update is on its way with the Human Rights Commission revising the Disability Discriminatory Act. The update, when taken place, will be significant, headed by a working group that includes contributions from the Centre for Accessibility Australia, as part of this process.

The update will be particularly noteworthy, as it will recognise the evolving digital era we are now in, which will provide broader applicability to the relevance of the Disability Discriminatory Act to digital provision of goods and services. In addition, it will also provide effective guidance on broader Australian digital standards.

Worthy of note are three possible amendments that if approved in the final edit, would be transformative for the workplace and people living with disability.

These three substantial points are:

  • A requirement that procedures must comply with the current version of WCAG. This change of language will have significant implications. The former note referenced WCAG 2.0 level AA compliance, and if the specification of the current version of W3C accessibility guidelines carries through to the final version, then it will make a considerable difference of what the obligations are to people in the workforce. For instance, 2.0 was the standard version in 2008. Since then, there has been 2.1 in 2018, and with 2.2 most likely being released this year, policy will be able to keep up with technological advances. Changing the language means it will always be current.
  • People with disability should be involved in user testing of web content.
  • The Commission urges organisations to include an accessibility requirement as an essential element in all new procurements of digital goods or services. Procurement requirements and accessibility have a long history. Up until recently when Standards Australia committed to bringing the European version to Australia, we were sorely lacking behind Europe and the US. Upon their success, Australia adopted ASEN301549. Till now there has been no legislation or policy that requires that these standards must be followed, but with ASEN301549 being referenced in the draft of the advisory note, that it is a mechanism that should be followed to ensure a workplace’s accessibility, this would be a significant step forward.

2014 was the last time there was an update to the WCAG advisory note, and these outlined changes, if actioned, would be instrumental to the workplace in bringing policy forward to our current times.

If published however, will these changes be utilised by workplaces? The answer is, only time will tell, but when all is said and done, policy updates that reflect changes and the needs of people with disability can only benefit towards a societal shift.

CFA Australia congratulates the efforts of the whole team, who are ensuring what will be a very important update. A request for public feedback will be available in the near future.