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Comments from Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission [SEC=UNCLASSIFIED]

From: Bruce Maguire <brucemaguire@humanrights.gov.au>
Date: Tue, 03 Jul 2007 07:09:03 +1000
To: public-comments-wcag20@w3.org
Message-ID: <q8qi8397pehuik714clb04n163cg208927@4ax.com>


These comments are in response to the Public Working Drafts of the
following three documents:
1. Web Content Accessibility guidelines (WCAG) 2.0;
2. Techniques for WCAG 2.0
3. Understanding WCAG 2.0
issued on May 17 2007 by the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) of the
Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C) and archived at

The comments are made by the Disability
Rights Unit of the Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity
Commission ("The Commission"). To assist processing, I have provided
the comments before the general background information that I include
in submissions of this kind. However, it should be noted at the outset
that the focus of the Disability Rights Unit is on issues that affect
policy and implementation, rather than on technical matters. The
comments below do not, therefore, concern themselves with techniques
or other technical issues, which the Commission leaves to those who
have relevant technical expertise noting, in so doing, that a number
of web accessibility consultants in Australia have provided general
and technical comments on various aspects of wCAG2.0.

For further information, please contact:
Bruce Maguire
Policy and Project officer
Disability Rights unit
Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission
Level 8, 133 Castlereagh Street
Sydney   NSW  2000
Tel.: +61-2-92849613
Email Brucemaguire@humanrights.gov.au

I. Specific Comments

Title of Document: WCAG2.0 Guidelines
Location within Document: Introduction

Concern and Rationale:
We regret that the Guidelines in their current form do not adequately
address the needs of people with cognitive, language or learning
disabilities. We believe that attention to the needs of these users is
a necessary part of accessibility, and that websites which do not
address these needs are, to that extent, inaccessible. However, we do
acknowledge the challenges of addressing these needs through
guidelines developed within a testable framework, and we encourage the
W3C to conduct more research in this area to identify best-practice
solutions, and to expand the Guidelines once more comprehensive
information has been obtained. We also urge the development committee
to re-examine the Guidelines in case it can identify a greater number
of success criteria that relate to the needs of people with cognitive,
language or learning disabilities and which meet the 80% confidence
level for human testing. In the meantime, we would recommend a
stronger statement about the importance of addressing the needs of
these user groups so that developers do not use WCAG2.0 as an escape
route for ignoring them. Therefore:

Suggested Change:
After "There is a need for more research and development in this
important area":
Delete period, add Comma, and the following text: "and developers
should seek relevant expert advice about current best practice to
ensure that web content is accessible as far as possible to people
with these disabilities."

Title of Document: WCAG 2.0 Guidelines
Location within Document: Introduction

Concern and Rationale:
We support endeavours to incorporate principles of testability into
accessibility standards and guidelines, as this provides greater
certainty for those who seek to implement them and also for those who
wish to assess the extent to which they have been followed. However,
there is no formal definition of "testable" and "testability" either
in the Introduction or in the Glossary of WCAG2.0. In particular,
there is no mention of the 80% confidence level requirement for human
testers. Given the significance of testability within the WCAG2.0
framework, we suggest providing a complete normative definition that
highlights the role of both machine and human testing, together with a
discussion of the rationale of the concept. The absence of such
definition and discussion limits the ability of policy-makers to
interpret, promote and apply the concept accurately.

Suggested Change:
Link "testable", In the sentence "All WCAG 2.0 success criteria are
written to be testable." to a definition in the Glossary. Add
definition to Glossary.

II. Background Information
II.1. What is 	the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission

The Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission is a
national independent statutory government body. 

The Commission is administered by the President, who is assisted by
the Human Rights, Race, Sex, Disability and Aboriginal and Torres
Islander Social Justice Commissioners. 

Under the legislation administered by the Commission, it has
responsibilities for inquiring into alleged infringements under five
anti-discrimination laws - the Racial Discrimination Act 1975, the Sex
Discrimination Act 1984, Disability Discrimination Act 1992 and the
Age Discrimination Act 2004 as well as inquiring into alleged
infringements of human rights under the Human Rights and Equal
Opportunity Commission Act 1986. 

Matters which can be investigated by the Commission include
discrimination on the grounds of race, colour or ethnic origin, racial
vilification, sex, sexual harassment, marital status, pregnancy, or

The Commission plays a central role in contributing to the maintenance
and improvement of a tolerant, equitable and democratic society,
its public awareness and other educational programs aimed at the
community, government and business sectors. These programs provide
information and strategies to improve the enjoyment of human rights in
Australia, the key message being that the elimination of
discrimination and harassment are prerequisites for the enjoyment of
human rights by
all Australians. 

II.2. Disability Discrimination Act and Web Accessibility in Australia

The Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act
1992 (DDA) is the key piece of Australian national legislation that
relates to discrimination against the 20% of Australians who have a
disability. Under the DDA, it is unlawful to discriminate against a
person on the grounds of a disability.

The objects of the DDA include eliminating, as far as possible,
discrimination against people with disabilities, and promoting
recognition and acceptance that people with a disability have the same
fundamental rights as the
rest of the community.

The DDA uses a broad definition of "disability" that includes:
*	Physical
*	Intellectual
*	Psychiatric
*	Sensory
*	Neurological, and
*	Learning disabilities, as well as
*	Physical disfigurement, and
*	The presence in the body of disease-causing organisms.

The DDA definition of disability also includes temporary disabilities
that would not be included in the overall measure of the percentage of
the population that has a disability. In the context of web design and
content management, the broader definition is
particularly relevant. For example, people who have a temporary
disability such as a broken arm are able to make use of the provisions
of the DDA if they encounter discrimination on the ground of
disability, including inaccessible websites.

The DDA sets out specific areas in which it is unlawful to
discriminate either directly or indirectly. These areas include access
to premises;
accommodation; education; employment; the
provision of goods, services and facilities; and the administration of
Commonwealth laws and programmes. The Commission supports the accepted
view that websites fall within the scope of the DDA by virtue of the
definitions of "goods and "services" in S.24 of the DDA, since there
is no limitation on how and where goods and services must be provided
order for them to be covered by the Act.

Where a person with a disability believes they have been discriminated
against, they can complain to the Commission, which will investigate
the complaint and generally attempt to conciliate a solution between
the two parties. Where conciliation is not possible, the complainant
may take their
complaint to the Federal Court or Federal Magistrates Service, which
have the
authority to determine whether unlawful discrimination has occurred
and make enforceable orders. 

A defense to a complaint of disability discrimination under the DDA is
"unjustifiable hardship". The onus of proof of unjustifiable hardship
is on the respondent to a complaint, and because the DDA is considered
"beneficial" legislation, some hardship in removing disability
discrimination may be regarded as justifiable. Our view is that in
general it is difficult to imagine how a defense of unjustifiable
hardship could be sustained with respect to an inaccessible website,
given the widespread availability of  techniques for developing
accessible sites, and also because of the social importance of having
access to the Web in order to live with equality and dignity in the
community. A number of DDA complaints have been lodged against
developers of inaccessible websites. To date, none of these complaints
has escalated to the Federal Court because they have been settled
through conciliation.
II.3. Role of Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission in
promoting Web Standards in Australia

The Commission is the primary source of advice to web developers,
administrators and users about the application of the dDA to websites.
Since 1996, the Commission has maintained Web Accessibility Advisory
Notes, which set out the commission's views about levels of access
that websites should achieve in order to be consistent with the
general requirements of the DDA. These Advisory Notes were last
updated in
August 2002, and are available at
ml. These notes reference WCAG 1.0 as a benchmark for best practice in
accessible web design.

The role of the Commission's Disability Rights unit does not extend to
the provision of detailed technical advice, but it does receive many
written and telephone inquiries about general web accessibility
issues, such as the level of compliance with best practice that is
appropriate in the context of disability discrimination legislation.

The Commission also plays a role in educating the community, including
hose involved with web development and management, about the resources
that are available to assist in the design of accessible websites.
Staff give presentations at relevant events such as conferences and
seminars, as well as working with government and industry
representatives to
develop clear and consistent national approaches to the recognition
and implementation of web accessibility guidelines.

In fulfilling its regulatory, advisory and educative roles, the
Commission has regard to international developments in the area of web
accessibility. In a global environment where servers can be located
anywhere and information easily distributed across national
we favour guidelines and standards that lead to greater international
consistency and applicability.

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Received on Thursday, 5 July 2007 14:16:16 UTC

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