Australia to adopt ICT accessibility standard

Asia-Pacific, September 20 2016

The Australian Public Service plans to require ICT vendors to ensure their products and services are accessible to employees with disabilities, under new standards expected to be in place by the end of the year.

Disability sign in place of enter keyThe Standards Australia has recently agreed to create an Australian Standard on ICT accessibility through the direct text adoption of the European Standard (EN 301 549). The standard will support access to ICT for people with disabilities and provide domestic ICT procurers with accessibility guidelines and certainty.

So what does ‘accessible’ mean in the context of ICT goods or services. Put simply, accessible ICT goods or services can be used by all intended users, taking into account their differing capabilities. A person’s ability to use technology may be impaired due to various physical, sensory, emotional or cognitive disabilities.

Once adopted, the Australian standard can be used when determining technical specifications for the procurement of accessible ICT products and services. This includes generic requirements, ICT with video, ICT with 2-way voice, hardware, web content, software and documentation and support services.

The standard will mirror European Standard EN 301 549 and be consistent with the US Section 508 and WCAG 2.0. In terms of next steps, public consultation will occur shortly before the standard can be adopted. It should then be in place before the end of the year and I’ll provide updated advice once this occurs.

From a practical perspective, any existing goods and services currently in use do not need to be replaced as a consequence of adopting the standard. The majority of these will already be consistent with European Standard EN 301 549 and US Section 508. When ICT goods and services are due for renewal or replacement, the Australian ICT accessibility standard should be used in accordance with the Commonwealth Procurement Rules (paragraph 10.9.c). This will also be the case when our ICT coordinated procurements are up for renewal.

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