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Making content accessible

The Australian Government is committed to the principles of open government, including providing accessible web information, content and services to all Australians regardless of disability, culture or environment.

Why must I?

In 2010, the Australian Government, through the Web Accessibility National Transition Strategy (NTS), implemented a policy of web accessibility, requiring all Australian government websites to adopt best practice solutions and conform to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines Version 2.0 (WCAG 2.0).

The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 requires agencies to ensure that people with disability have the same fundamental rights to access information and services as others in the community. Agencies should consider the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Disability Discrimination Act Advisory Notes to help reduce the risk of disability discrimination.

The Australian Government has also approved the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). This specifically recognises (under Articles 9 and Article 21) that access to information, communications and services (including the internet) is a human right.

How do I?

Ensure internal policy and procedures are compliant

Your agency should already be embedding web accessibility (WCAG 2.0 conformance) into your IT and communication policies and practices. This covers:

Agencies are encouraged to develop, maintain and provide:

Agency use of intranets, third-party (external) sites, and social media all need to be included in IT policies and procedures.

Develop an accessible website layout and design

Your agency should develop the website layout and design to be WCAG 2.0 level AA compliant. This enables the information and functionality of the site to be easily and quickly discovered or accessed by all users. This includes those using adaptive practices or assistive technologies. The design also needs to be flexible to cover all usage situations (including access by mobile devices), while ensuring timeliness in service delivery.

Your agency should incorporate appropriate WCAG 2.0 techniques into the design, development and production phases of a website. You should also consider developing compliant styles and templates to assist ongoing and future accessibility requirements.

Write accessible content

When authoring online content (information, material and publications), you need to keep web accessibility in mind.

You should identify the purpose and intent of the content in order to determine the most appropriate format for achieving this. Your agency should then incorporate appropriate WCAG 2.0 techniques into the authoring, production and publication of content. Finally, you should undertake a quality assurance process to determine WCAG 2.0 Level AA conformance before releasing the content.

Web accessibility should not be a reason for not publishing online content as no information is more inaccessible than inaccessible information. Instead, any material identified as non-compliant requires a risk assessment and to be managed accordingly.

Select an appropriate format

To provide effective and timely web accessibility, agencies should not rely upon any web technology that cannot claim WCAG 2.0 conformance. You need to carefully consider any non HTML format, such as PDF and Microsoft Word, to determine whether it meets the WCAG conformance requirement.


Currently PDFs do not meet the required accessibility support. This is due to the lack of assistive technology support on mobile platforms. However, PDF accessibility can be greatly enhanced when created with general techniques and PDF specific techniques. In some cases, PDFs are considered compliant for a desktop environment or audience. However, a compliant HTML alternative should be provided or, at a minimum, a HTML cover page that communicates the document’s purpose, message and key findings.

Microsoft Word

The Microsoft Word format does not currently conform to WCAG 2.0. However, accessibility can be improved through the structured mark-up of the content and supported by alternative compliant formats (ideally a compliant HTML alternative). At a minimum, you should provide a HTML cover page that communicates the document’s purpose, message and key findings. The video and transcripts of Microsoft accessibility training sessions provide further information.


You should first consider the appropriateness of the multimedia format in achieving your communication objective, particularly accessibility when using a mobile device.

There are a range of accessibility issues that can affect people accessing information conveyed through multimedia. These include:

You should provide a text equivalent as a minimum accessibility feature of all instances of multimedia. This includes:

Update your procurement processes

Agencies should update their ICT procurement processes, especially those relating to websites and web-based service delivery, to include specific web accessibility criteria. It’s important that agencies purchase more accessible goods and services to align with government policy and initiatives for improved social inclusion. Further advice is available:

Updating your procurement processes can help your agency achieve value for money by reducing the need for re-work or customisation of goods to meet the mandatory accessibility standards. Your agency will also benefit from reduced risk of Disability Discrimination Act 1992 complaints.

Last updated: 26 June 2015