Understanding Australia’s DDA Compliance for Accessibility

The Disability Discrimination Act 1992, popularly also known as the DDA Act, was introduced to promote and ensure equality of treatment for every Australian. It specifically works to protect those with disabilities against discrimination of any kind. Every Australian establishment and set-up must be DDA-compliant.

What is the DDA?

The DDA Act is an attempt to integrate and include those with disabilities into the community by driving acceptance and recognition for these individuals.

Driven by the principles of equity, fairness, and justice, the DDA Act assures fair treatment for individuals with visual and cognitive impairment and those with other disabilities. With a keen focus on equal and fundamental rights of those with disabilities, the act covers every sphere of life including employment, accommodation, leisure and entertainment, public spaces, digital environment as well as goods and services.

What is Disability According to DDA?

According to some figures, 1 in every 6 Australians, or over 4.4 million Australians are leading their lives with some disability or another. Additionally, over 5 million Australians speak languages other than English and face comprehension challenges.

Some of the statistics that highlight the situation are: 

Having said that it is important to understand how the DDA Act defines disability. Disability isn’t restricted to mobility or lack of physical access but also covers those that are not externally apparent such as neurological disorders, visual or hearing disabilities, cognitive or learning disabilities, language and comprehension challenges, etc. Besides ensuring the inclusion of disabilities across the spectrum from physical, psychiatric, neurological, learning, intellectual, or sensory nature, the DDA Act also protects those who currently live with a disability, have had episodes of it in the past, may be at risk of it in the future or are believed to have it.

DDA Divisions and what they cover:

The DDA Act details 6 divisions, each of which involves a specific aspect of the act. 

  • Division 1: Discrimination at work
  • Division 2. Discrimination in other areas – including goods and services, facilities, and websites
  • Division 3: Disability standards
  • Division 4: Discrimination that involves harassment
  • Division 5: Description of offenses
  • Division 6: What comes under exemptions

DDA and Web Accessibility:

Having understood the reasons behind the DDA Act and its purpose, let us now see how it applies to the digital environment. The DDA Act works along with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) to create an inclusive digital space for individuals with visual and cognitive impairment as well as other disabilities. WCAG was originally developed in the US to provide a single standard reckoner for web content accessibility. This document also formed the basis for the DDA Act in Australia and outlines how web content can be made more accessible for people living with disabilities. 

Today these standards are part of the best practices considered while designing and producing digital content not just for those with disabilities but also for anyone requiring the assistance of a screen reader software. With the growing penetration of the internet and the ease of access it provides, web accessibility is the next frontier of inclusive and accessible services. Web is where most business is done and the DDA act ensures that this space remains accessible and open, without discrimination and prejudice to every single member of the community regardless of their ability or disability. 

Some of the ways this accessibility is made possible are:

Alternative Text for Images:

Text description for all images that make visual content accessible to software such as screen readers. This ensures full website accessibility (images and text) to those dealing with visual impairments.

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Text Resizing:

Providing text resizing options helps people adjust the written matter as per their comfort and needs.

Clear navigation:

Clear and easily identifiable navigation flow, accessible ways of navigation through the keyboard as well as a trackpad or using a mouse provide people with options to accommodate their needs.

Sufficient Color Contrast:

Maintaining an optimal color contrast strategy to ensure the color contrast ratio of the website caters to those with color blindness.

Keyboard accessibility:

Built-in keyboard navigation provides ease of operation with access to all content for users who cannot use a mouse.

Who Needs to Comply with DDA?

Every Australian set-up needs to comply with the DDA Act striving to provide equal and fair access to their offerings for every member of the community, including those with visual or cognitive impairments or other disabilities. These cover web accessibility of any government or public-facing websites across varied industries, including but not limited to:

  • Banking and Finance 
  • Education
  • Transport
  • Real Estate
  • Recreation
  • Employment 
  • Tourism
  • Education
  • Food and Agriculture
  • E-Commerce

Consequences of Non-Compliance

When a business is non-compliant it loses out on a large number of potential customers in addition to attracting legal action. If a business or its website is found to be non-compliant with the DDA Act and a person feels they’ve been discriminated against, the aggrieved party can file a written complaint through the online form with the Australian Human Rights Commission. Besides going through a review process and the financial implications of it, an organization risks not just losing face and getting bad PR, but also tarnishing its reputation and brand value. 

More than a rap on the knuckles, the DDA Act provides guidelines that help a business remain an ethical, conscious, and accessible partner in the progress of Australia and its people. The DDA Act and the WCAG together form best practices that have become the norm for conducting business by building inclusivity and participation. Only when commerce and community walk together, can robust development of all can be ensured.

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Debangku Sarma

Digital Marketing Associate
Continual Engine

Vijayshree Vethantham

Senior Vice-President, Growth & Strategy
Continual Engine US LLC

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