Accessibility – Australian Government is naming and shaming Government websites publishing PDFs

During September, the Disability Discrimination Commissioner, Graeme Innes, published a media release asking all government departments and agencies in Australia to start complying with the Federal Disability Discrimination Act in relation to publishing information on their websites.

Basically he is tired of government publishing key documents in pdf format only and not in alternative accessible formats.

"Commissioner Innes noted that, generally speaking, accessible versions of documents are eventually supplied when people ask for them, but this often takes weeks. "That’s not good enough – people with disability have an equal right to participate in public debates about important issues, but they need to be able to get access to information when it’s published, not after the debate has moved on for everyone else."

When documents are only put on the Internet in PDF format, it usually results in inadequate or zero access for people with disability. "You can use HTML, Microsoft Word, or RTF formats", said the Commissioner. "It’s particularly depressing to see documents created in word-processor formats, which provide very good access, being converted into PDF, which doesn’t, then only being posted in PDF."

Australian Governments have policies that commit their departments and agencies to complying with requirements for publishing information so that it is accessible, including the requirements of the federal Disability Discrimination Act.

I’m not telling government publishers that they can’t use PDF, but I am telling them that they must provide the same content in other accessible formats alongside the PDFs on their websites," said Commissioner Innes. "I’m also telling them that, if this doesn’t begin to improve, we will start to name and shame.""

Since then the Commissioner has made good on his threat and has created a Name and Shame section on the Australian Human Rights website. The Name and Shame list is located at: Web Watch: Accessibility of government websites.

State and local governments within Australia should take heed. It wont be long before they are named along with their federal counterparts.

Fortunately, the Victorian Government has published the Accessibility Toolkit providing a section on PDFs and accessibility which you may find helpful.

So if you fall into the category of only providing information in pdf format – be warned – your website might be famous for all the wrong reasons unless you act now and provide accessible alternatives for the information you provide in PDFs.

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