Information and communication technology (ICT) accessibility – Important for all, essential for some

Ken Saurajen, Monique Azzopardi
04 Aug 2022
Time to read: 2 minutes

Organisations that fail to make their ICT products and services accessible not only risk excluding certain segments of the population, but they also potentially expose themselves to breach of laws, including anti-discrimination legislation.

Technology has the potential to make life easier and more efficient. However, it is important that technologies are developed and deployed so that they are inclusive and do not potentially exclude or limit an end-user from using and interacting with an ICT product or service. The failure of entities to make their ICT products and services accessible may result in an individual bringing a discrimination claim against them.

To be inclusive ICT products and services should be accessible, including for people living with a disability (such as hearing loss, vision impairment, a physical disorder or cognitive impairment).

How can ICT be made more accessible?

There are multiple ways in which technologies can be made more accessible. Some examples are below:

  • If textual information is presented (for instance, on a website), users should be able to enlarge the text without any loss of content or functionality.
  • Where ICT provides visual modes of operation, the ICT can be accessed without vision (for example, via screen readers).
  • Information conveyed by colour differences (for example, a colour-coded bar graph) should also be conveyed in text.
  • Website content should be both “readable” (for example, not overcrowded, avoiding small font sizes and containing meaningful headings) and understandable. Avoid jargon.
  • Have regard to the needs of those with restricted mobility (such as wheelchair users) in the location and positioning of ICT products (for example, the location of hardware or computer screen).

What should ICT vendors and their customers do?

Standards – Ensure that ICT products and standards meet applicable ICT accessibility standards and requirements. In 2016, Australia adopted AS EN 301 549 – Accessibility Requirements for ICT products and Services. This “gold” international accessibility standard specifies the accessibility needs and requirements applicable to ICT products and services (including software, hardware, websites, mobile applications etc). It incorporates the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.

Legislative compliance - ICT vendors and customers should ensure that the development, procurement and deployment of ICT products and services complies with all applicable legislation, including the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth), the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 (NSW) and workplace legislation, including the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth). In this regard, it is noted that an ICT product that is not accessible may potentially give rise to a claim for discrimination (including indirect discrimination).

Government agencies should also ensure that ICT products and services are procured in accordance with all applicable policies and guidelines, including in relation to web accessibility.

Procurement and contracting - Before procuring an ICT product or service, customers should understand the users of the ICT product (and their requirements), as well as the types of environments that they may use an ICT product in. Tender specifications and requirements should be drafted with ICT accessibility in mind. Consider requiring tenderers to provide evidence of an ICT products’ accessibility and compliance with accessibility standards.

To the extent applicable, contracts for ICT products and services should be developed such that they include terms and conditions that support ICT accessibility and comply with all relevant ICT accessibility standards.

Testing – testing, especially end-user testing, should be carried out on ICT products and services prior to rolling out a new ICT solution / system in order to identify any accessibility barriers. Where practicable, customers should consider having ICT accessibility as one of the acceptance criteria.

Trial before you roll out – Before fully deploying a new ICT product or service, organisations should consider an initial (short term) trial to determine whether the product meets their requirements, including from an end-user accessibility perspective.

Ongoing review – Following the deployment of an ICT product and service (and in the event of an upgrade), organisations should review and consider whether the ICT product and service (including its positioning and placement within the organisation) is operating in an accessible manner. Organisations should encourage feedback from end-users about the accessible nature of the ICT product/service.

Key takeaway

Organisations that fail to make their ICT products and services accessible not only risk excluding certain segments of the population, but they also potentially expose themselves to breach of laws, including anti-discrimination legislation.

An ICT product and service that is accessible is important for everyone and essential for those who may not be able to receive a service without the accessibility component or feature.

Clayton Utz communications are intended to provide commentary and general information. They should not be relied upon as legal advice. Formal legal advice should be sought in particular transactions or on matters of interest arising from this communication. Persons listed may not be admitted in all States and Territories.