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Australian government adopts accessibility standard for websites

The Australian government has adopted a standard that will make its online services more accessible to people with disabilities. 23 Aug 2016

The new standard, 'accessibility requirements suitable for public procurement of ICT products and services', will now form part of the technical specifications used by all government departments when procuring ICT products and services, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said.

This will "ensure that all Australians can access information and use services electronically" from public authorities and other public sector agencies, Cormann said.

The standard is based on European Standard EN 301 549, the first European standard for accessible ICT, which was published in 2014. 

Technology expert Paul Haswell of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind said: "Accessibility of public services is essential in many jurisdictions, including Australia, in order to avoid possible claims of discrimination under human rights law and regulations. With the majority of services in the majority of developed jurisdictions now moving to the internet, it is necessary to ensure such services are accessible by all. Therefore the new standards adopted by the Australian government are essential to ensure nobody suffers exclusion due to disability."

The Australian Human Rights Commission published a report last year into the accessibility of IT in the Australian public service, which stressed the need to improve accessibility to increase the number of people with disabilities working in the sector.