Leading commercial law firm Phillips Fox has welcomed the Australian Government’s written submission this week to the draft Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities.
Sydney IT and ecommerce partner, Matthew Hall said the Government’s submission demonstrates its commitment to ensuring the participation of people with disabilities in all levels of society. A significant aspect of full participation in modern society is the ability to access information, communication services and assistive technologies, including electronic banking and the mass media.
“To be able to actively participate in today’s society everyone must be able to access key services and information electronically. The Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act outlines that it is unlawful for a person who provides services to discriminate against another person on the grounds of the other person’s disability,” Mr Hall said.
“This right was reinforced back in 2002 when the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (SOCOG) was successfully sued, and fined, over a lack of disability access to its web site. “
Mr Hall said that despite the high profile of the SOCOG case, he suspected that web accessibility was still an issue that many Australian companies had not yet addressed.
“Last year, a report by monitoring company Business2www found that 21 per cent of the top UK companies have web sites that fail basic accessibility tests. My belief is that if we did the same study in Australia we would get similar results.”
He said the Australian Bankers’ Association released voluntary Industry Standards for its members in April 2002 to assist banks to develop or enhance their electronic banking services for older Australians and people with disabilities to meet the requirements of the Act. All Association members’ web sites were required to comply with the Standards by October last year.
“Despite the voluntary standards for the financial services industry, this is an issue that needs to be at the forefront of the minds of all Australian companies. The fact that the United Nations and the Australian government are seriously considering this draft Convention is an indication that this issue will continue to gain prominence. It is only a matter of time before all Australian businesses will need to seriously address Internet and other electronic accessibility issues.”