Providing people with a disability full and independent access to information is consistent with our society’s obligations to remove discrimination and promote human rights.
Obstacles can make access to everyday living such as shopping or attending an event more difficult than for others. Public events and functions should be for everyone; this includes how they are promoted.
Accessing information can also be difficult for some people with a disability. Individuals and organisations providing information and services need to think carefully about how they make their websites and other information accessible to people with a disability.
Using and providing accessible formats and communication
Providing information in a variety of formats helps ensure you communicate with the widest possible audience.
'Accessible format' is the term used to describe alternative communication formats that increase access to information for people with a disability. Sometimes the term 'alternative formats' is used.
An accessible format document is one that is written without jargon and designed so the text is more readable. Assistive technology and software such as screen reading software or computer generated voice technology can also improve access to information.
Commonly used accessible formats
- Large print - typically a minimum 16-point font size is used, but this can be customised to suit individual requests
- Audio - audio, CD or podcast. This format is most useful if the information can be read from beginning to end without needing to refer to other parts of the document
- Braille - a system of writing used by people who are blind. When preparing information to be converted to braille text, keep the document layout as simple as possible for easier transcription. There are organisations that can help produce braille text
- Easy English - a simplified form of plain English that is used for written information. Easy English is helpful for people with a cognitive or intellectual disability or low English language literacy levels. Clear and simple words and short sentences are used Pictures and photographs are also often used to illustrate sentences. Developing easy English documents is a specialised skill and it is advisable to contact an expert to produce documents
- Videos with captions and/or audio description.
Producing accessible formats
It is not necessary to produce all documents in accessible formats. The most appropriate formats can vary according to an individual’s specific communication needs. But organisations are encouraged to identify key documents and prepare them in accessible formats. An example might be a master copy in audio or braille. This enables an organisation to respond to requests for accessible formats in a timely manner. It also reduces the need to store large quantities of materials which may go unused.
It is recommended that the availability of accessible formats is advertised or promoted by a short statement. In a publication this statement is often located on the inside front or back cover. It tells people how they can obtain an accessible format of the publication. This is often referred to as an 'accessibility tag'.
Readable standard print (documents not websites)
Many people in the community find small and elaborate printing difficult to read. Making documents more readable will reduce the need for accessible alternative versions. Below are a number of recommendations to make standard print more readable:
- Use a minimum 12 point font size
- Use plain fonts such as Arial. These are often described as 'sans serif' (without the small curls or decorative features)
- Avoid using blocks of text written in capital letters. Information is easier to read for people with a vision impairment if it is written using a mix of upper and lower case
- Separate paragraphs with blank lines to make it easier to find the start of the next paragraph
- Justify margins on the left hand side and leave the right hand margin unjustified
- Use contrasting colours to increase readability. Black text on a white background is preferable
- Do not place text over pictures, photos or other images. This makes the text hard to read
- When providing a link to a PDF document, also provide an alternative accessible format such as Word or HTML
- Limit the use of tables. Where tables are used, design the content so that it is suitable for screen reading software. This might include repeating the name of the column in each cell
- Use plain English. Use short sentences with no jargon and clear headings
- Avoid using underlining or italics and use bold to emphasise text instead
- Avoid using text boxes.
Tips for preparing written communication
Use a plain writing style including:
- Short sentences
- Use active voice
- Positive rather than negative sentences
- Provide explanations of new or complex concepts
- Concrete examples
- No acronyms, metaphors, puns or colloquialisms.
Consider working with local culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) and Indigenous services to develop material in a culturally appropriate manner.
Web accessibility refers to the practice of making websites usable by people of all abilities. When websites are correctly designed, developed and edited, all users can have equal access to information and functionality.
Why is web accessibility important?
Making web pages accessible enables more people to access your information.
People with a disability can use varied technologies to assist in accessing the web. It is important to cater to their needs. For example, people who have a vision impairment may rely on a screen reader that reads the webpage aloud to them.
It is important that information is presented logically, links are clearly labelled, and video and audio files don’t play automatically.
Tips for web accessibility
- Avoid using italics
- Only use underline to indicate a link
- Do not convey information with colour only. If something is important, emphasise using bold
- The background colour and text colour should have a high contrast difference
- Images should have alternate text that fulfils the same function as the image
- Avoid flickering content
- Links should have meaningful text. They should not include words like click here or link. The links should make sense out of context
- Visitors should be able to navigate your website with only a keyboard
- Make sure the website is functional for users who do not use technologies like Flash.
Documents hosted on a website should be provided in an accessible format. Generally HTML, text and Word documents are considered accessible to all.
Portable Document Format (PDF) documents and video files are not currently considered accessible. PDF still has some aspects that exclude it from being an accessible technology. PDFs with accessibility features only work with the latest and most popular screen readers. The only way to make the information within a PDF accessible is to create an alternative version.
Tips for accessible downloads
- When linking to a file, make sure the file format (PDF, Word, etc) and file size is clear to the user
- When providing a link to a PDF document, also provide an alternate, accessible format such as Word or HTML
- For video and audio files, make a transcript available for download in an accessible format. Enable users to control embedded video and audio (for example, pause and stop).
Web Accessibility Standards
The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 requires that websites be accessible to people with a disability.
Conformance levels A, AA, and AAA are used. These standards are governed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). The W3C is an international community for the development of web standards.
The W3C has developed two sets of standards for web accessibility, WCAG 1.0 and WCAG 2.0. The Act recommends following the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, Version 1.0 (WCAG 1.0).
WCAG 2.0 is a change in focus from the technological and code-specific focus of WCAG 1.0. It has a user-centric focus based on four principles of accessibility. These principles lay the foundation necessary for anyone to access and use web content. Web content should be:
- Perceivable - information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive. This could include using captions or alternatives for video and audio content
- Operable - user interface components and navigation must be operable. This could include making the website keyboard accessible and giving users enough time to read all of the content.
- Understandable - information and the operation of the user interface must be understandable. This could include ensuring text is readable and robust enough so that it can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies. This means that users must be able to access the content as technologies advance.
Web accessibility audits
A web accessibility audit involves a professional assessing a website in order to measure the level of accessibility. The audit checks for compliance with the international standards. The audit might identify priorities areas to improve accessibility. It might also provide examples of solutions to address accessibility issues.
Web accessibility service
The Office for Disability supports the whole of Victorian Government Web Accessibility Service. It is a free advisory service which aims to:
- Provide specific advice on web accessibility for Victorian Government website operators
- Promote web accessibility at procurement level
- Encourage and support web accessibility as a priority across the Victorian Government.
Improving the accessibility of surveys
Designing a questionnaire or survey tool so it can be accessed by people with a disability is important. It will help ensure a large group within the population can contribute their views.
Organisations often choose to use questionnaires and surveys to gather data. The data might be about customers, members, clients or patients. Unfortunately, the requirements of people with a disability to participate in a survey can often be overlooked. This can result in under-representation in the data. It can create the perception that people with a disability are not interested in using the services or programs.
When preparing questionnaires and surveys:
- Make the survey tool accessible
- Seek participation of people with a disability.
Survey data collection
A face-to-face interview is the most inclusive method of collecting data from people with a disability. Interviews should be conducted by trained interviewers. Alternatives for survey data collection include:
- Written questionnaires
- Telephone surveys
- Online surveys.
It is also important to make alternative collection methods available.
Tips to increase survey accessibility
- Keep survey questions simple and concise
- Set questions out in a logical order
- Clearly describe instructions for questions such as 'Please select all options that apply to you'
- Ensure rating scales are relevant to the question
- Consider accessible formats. Examples include large print, audio versions and easy English. Easy English will assist people with an intellectual disability or someone with complex communication needs
- Choose accessible online survey software. The tool should be compatible with screen readers and people who do not use a mouse.
Facilitating open and honest feedback
To encourage open and honest feedback to surveys and consultation:
- Let the respondent know what the survey is about and its aims
- Assure participants their opinions are valued
- Reassure the respondent that survey responses will remain confidential
- Making sure that people can give anonymous feedback can guard against:
- People saying what they think the organisation wants to hear
- Fears that negative consequences will follow from being critical or wanting something more.
Accessible events guidelines and checklist
The Accessible events guidelines and checklist guide is designed to assist organisers improve the accessibility of events. This is to increase the participation of people with a disability, including those with a vision impairment or hearing loss.
The guide aims to help you:
- Think about access and participation
- Identify features that make it impossible or difficult for people with a disability to access or participate in an event
- Understand what you can do to ensure the best possible access
- Find further sources of advice, information and assistance
- Be aware, in advance, of specific requirements people attending a meeting or event may have
- Consider emergency procedures available at the venue.