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Internet still covered under Australian Discrimination Law

Commission Commission – General

23 October 2002

Internet
still covered under Australian Discrimination Law

A decision in the
US District Court yesterday found that US disability discrimination law
does not cover the internet. However, having an inaccessible website is
definitely in breach of Australian disability discrimination legislation.

"Under the Federal
Disability Discrimination Act - as well as under equivalent laws in all
Australian States - it is unlawful to discriminate against a person on
the grounds of their disability by having a website which they cannot
access," said Dr Sev Ozdowski, Acting Disability Discrimination Commissioner.

"The World Wide
Web Consortium has developed web access guidelines, and non-compliance
with them by the operators of Australian websites is in breach of the
Act," Dr Ozdowski said.

The guidelines set
out ways in which website operators can provide access for people who
surf using speech or braille, people who need more time when using a keyboard,
or people who can only use a keyboard or a mouse. The guidelines require
such things as images and frames to be labelled, and do not prevent use
of software such as Flash but require text alternatives.

"Two years ago
a $20000 damages award was made against SOCOG because their site was not
accessible during the Olympic Games," Dr Ozdowski said. "I am
keen to ensure that website operators are aware of the law so that such
complaints do not have to be lodged in the future."

Since that decision
the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission has worked with organisations
such as the Internet Industry Association (IIA) to raise awareness among
website operators of what the law requires. We are very encouraged that
the IIA has recently released an Accessible Web Action Plan that over
time will make Australia a world leader in web accessibility.

Information on the
Web Access Guidelines may be found at: http://www.w3.org/WAI/

Media contact: Janine
Macdonald

Last
updated 2 December 2001.