The Web Accessibility National Transition Strategy

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If you go to the Australian government’s website for the National Transition Strategy you will be greeted with pages of boring government-speak about:

“improved web services”
“the provision of information and services online”
“an important milestone for government”
and “whole-of-government”.

It’s very nice of the government to provide all this information but it is a lot to wade through. Luckily for you, I’ve already done it and tackled the seaweed. And, I’ve found the pretty shells that you’re really interested in.

Here we continue the three-part series on e-accessibility and how you can make your content user-friendly for all abilities, by Perth-based contributor Monica (@thebigmeeow).

So let’s begin. Here’s what you need to know:

The final goal

All government information that is online will be accessible. How accessible will it be? It will be AA level of WCAG2.0 (for more information about WCAG2.0 check out my earlier post).

The levels of WCAG2.0 are like health insurance. A level is your basic cover: dental, optical, and a shared room in hospital. AAA is the ‘top-of-the-wazza’ chiropractic, homeopathy, no-gap physiotherapy, hip replacements AND maternity, and a private room with your own butler in hospital.

The AA level is the middle ground. You get a good selection extras (though not the hip replacements or maternity care) and if you pay a slightly larger excess you can have a private room in hospital – sans the butler.

So the final goal for the National Transition Strategy is that most people, with most disabilities, can access government information and services online.

Image of a flow chart for the National Transition Strategy. A full text description is available at http://www.finance.gov.au/publications/wcag-2-implementation/ under the heading "Work Plan"
WCAG 2.0 National Transition Strategy (image format). Source: finance.gov.au/

Government agencies and departments are expected to consider universal design and web accessibility when commissioning future websites, web applications, and other online content

At a minimum

On every government website, some information is more important than others. This information must be compliant with AA level even if the rest of the site isn’t. This includes:

  • contact details;
  • information about the organisation or department, including its role and any relevant legislation;
  • the organisation or department’s functions, structure, key personnel and services;
  • current information about citizens’ responsibilities, obligations, rights and entitlements (benefits, etc.) in relation to government assistance;
  • current public notices, warnings and advice.

If you want to know about the specifics of how to make this information compliant, then I suggest you watch our web accessibility training videos:

If you’re a third party delivering government information and/or services then your online content needs to be compliant too.

The 2012 review

In 2012 the Department of Finance reviewed the progress of the National Transition Strategy. While there had been improvement in the accessibility of some online content, the general conclusion was that most departments will not achieve AA level compliance by the end of 2014.

2012 review statistics shown as images. For full text go to http://www.finance.gov.au/agimo/web-accessibility-national-transition-strategy-2012-progress.html
Depressing statistics with a positive spin. Source: finance.gov.au/

Given the slow progress of agencies and departments adopting the new standards, the report listed eight priorities for departments to achieve before the end of 2014; even if they can’t achieve full compliance. These are:

  1. Complete any remaining audits of the number of websites and web applications, including those provided by a third party.
  2. Complete conformance assessment of all websites and web applications currently unassessed.
  3. Assign a WCAG 2.0 upgrade priority to all websites and web applications , with priority on the minimum online content requirements.
  4. Deploy accessibility conformance testing tools and, where required, external testing services to compliment agency capability.
  5. Review accessibility action plans addressing upgrade priorities, alternate access methods, maintenance and monitoring practices.
  6. Update agency web policies to provide for WCAG 2.0 conformance for all websites and web applications.
  7. Release progressive accessibility enhancements to their web environments as they are developed.
  8. Maintain a program of education and training for agency staff on accessible authoring practice.

Some handy tools

Feeling a little despaired? Want to throw the whole project out the window? Well, we’ve all been there. I suggest you get yourself a nice glass of wine or cup of coffee or pot of tea or pitcher of milk or whatever you drink when relaxing, and browse the useful information and tools I’ve found while poking around the WWW.

AccessAbility

WCAG2.0 information and resource page for Pennsylvania State University. Includes a breakdown of the guidelines, common tools, testing, and troubleshooting.

ADOD Project

The Accessible Digital Office Document Project, developed by The Ontario College of Art and Design University jointly with the Government of Ontario and UNESCO. Includes comprehensive instructions for creating accessible digital documents using any software including Microsoft Office, Google Docs, Open Office, Adobe and more.

ChromeVOX

A screen reader emulator for Chrome.

Stamford Interactive

Variation on marketing consultants. Includes some handy WCAG2.0 resources.

Vision Australia

Not-for-profit organisation working for and with people with vision impairments. Includes training, resources, tools, and an excellent blog.

Web Accessibility Checker

An online tool that reviews your existing website and provides a basic web accessibility report.

Web Accessibility Evaluation Tools List

Accessibility service provider operated by Utah State University. Includes articles, resources, newsletter, a blog, and for Utah residents – training and consulting services.

Web Accessibility Evaluation Tools List

A list of evaluation tools for online programs and content. Hosted by W3C.

Join me for my next Blog – Part 3 of Accessibility is Everywhere where we get up close and personal.

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About

Monica is a content curator, social media and digital specialist and greyhound owner. She is a valuable member of The Copy Collective team and author of some of our most popular posts on social media.

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