Australia’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)  

Australian government agencies have been required to provide information and services in a non-discriminatory accessible manner since the early nineties (Disability Discrimination Act 1992) and, in 1999, the first regulations involving web content, WCAG 1.0, were published. Since 2008 the agencies are under the new version, WCAG 2.0, which has been updated several times1 since it was first published.

Aimed at developers of web content, authoring tools and web accessibility evaluation tools, the WCAG are technical standards with three levels of success criteria for each of the 12 established guidelines2. These are guidelines on how to make web content more accessible to people with disabilities including “blindness and low vision, deafness and hearing loss, learning disabilities, cognitive limitations, limited movement, speech disabilities, photosensitivity and combinations of these”. (W3.org) Web content not only refers to text, images and sounds but also to codes that define structure etc. (for instance, accessible web browsers).

You can access documents and supporting materials here as instructions to develop web content and tools.

The WCAG are available in numerous languages and, having been reviewed by software developed and interested parties, it is a highly regarded and internationally recognized reference. Comments are welcomed and made public to encourage discussion among all stakeholders.

1 Updates occurred on: 14 October 2010, 3 January 2012, 5 September 2013, 3 March 2014, 8 April 2014 and 16 September 2014.

2 The 12 guidelines established by WCAG 2.0 are:

  1. Provide text alternatives for any non-text content so that it can be changed into other forms people need, such as large print, braille, speech, symbols or simpler language.
  2. Provide alternatives for time-based media.
  3. Create content that can be presented in different ways (for example simpler layout) without losing information or structure.
  4. Make it easier for users to see and hear content including separating foreground from background.
  5. Make all functionality available from a keyboard.
  6. Provide users enough time to read and use content.
  7. Do not design content in a way that is known to cause seizures.
  8. Provide ways to help users navigate, find content, and determine where they are.
  9. Make text content readable and understandable.
  10. Make Web pages appear and operate in predictable ways.
  11. Help users avoid and correct mistakes.
  12. Maximize compatibility with current and future user agents, including assistive technologies.

All standards and drafts can be found here.

A quick reference guide to WCAG 2.0 can be found here.

It is noteworthy that, as of 1 July 2015, the government web guidance became the responsibility of the Digital Transformation Office.

A 6-week online qualification is offered jointly by the W3C Media Access Australia and the University of South Australia and targets content authors, web developers and web designers.

To access the Australian Web Accessibility National Transition Strategy (the last phase, Implementation, completed in December 2014), click here.

Additional Sources: W3, Department of Finance of the Australian Government, Webguide, Access IQ