People with disability have a right to access technology. Access to new technology, especially Digital Communication Technology, is an enabling right for people with disability because it is critical to the enjoyment of a range of other civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.
Good technology design can enable the participation of people with disability as never before—from the use of real-time live captioning to reliance on smart home assistants. On the other hand, poor design can cause significant harm, reducing the capacity of people with disability to participate in activities that are central to the enjoyment of their human rights, and their ability to live independently.
Part D of the Report focuses on improving the accessibility of goods, services and facilities that use Digital Communication Technology for people with disability. The Commission recommends a range of measures to improve the functional accessibility and availability of goods, services and facilities that rely on Digital Communication Technology, increase access to accessible audio-visual content, and build the capacity of business and professionals to design technology that can be enjoyed by people with disability.
- Access to technology is an enabling right for people with disability.
- Access to technology unlocks employment, education and other opportunities for people with disability.
- Accessible design of new technology benefits everyone—people with disability, business and the whole community.
Recommendation 24: DDA Standard
The Attorney-General should:
- develop a Digital Communication Technology Standard under section 31 of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth), and
- consider other law and policy reform to implement the full range of accessibility obligations regarding Digital Communication Technologies under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
In doing so, the Attorney-General should consult widely, especially with people with disability and the technology sector.
Recommendation 25: Government
The Australian Government and state, territory and local governments should commit to using Digital Communication Technology that fully complies with recognised accessibility standards—especially WCAG 2.1 and Australian Standard EN 301 549, and successor standards. To this end, all Australian governments should:
- introduce whole-of-government requirements for compliance with these standards, including by:
(i) providing information that is publicly available about how each agency complies with these requirements, reported annually(ii) establishing central line agency and ministerial responsibility for monitoring compliance across government(iii) resourcing training and advisory support to assist compliance
- promote accessible goods, services and facilities that use Digital Communication Technology by favouring procurement from entities that implement such accessibility standards in their own activities
- develop policies and targets to increase the availability of government communications in Easy English and provide human customer supports for people with disability who need to communicate with people instead of accessing digital services.
- introduce whole-of-government requirements for compliance with these standards, including by:
Recommendation 26: Private sector
The Australian Government Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources or the Digital Transformation Agency should conduct an inquiry into compliance by industry with accessibility standards such as WCAG 2.1 and Australian Standard EN 301 549.
The inquiry should consider the extent to which incentives for compliance with standards should include changes relating to taxation, grants and procurement, research and design, and the promotion of good practices by industry.
Recommendation 27: Captioning and audio description
The Australian Government should amend the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (Cth) to increase the amount of accessible content available for people who have hearing or vision difficulties as follows:
- national and commercial free-to-air television services should be required to provide audio described content for a minimum of 14 hours of programming per week, distributed across the primary and secondary channels. This should be increased to a minimum of 21 hours per week in a timeframe to be determined in consultation with people with disability and broadcasting services.
- subscription television services should be required to provide audio described content for a minimum of 14 hours of programming per week for their main channels. This should be increased to a minimum of 21 hours per week in a timeframe to be determined in consultation with people with disability and broadcasting services.
- national and commercial television free-to-air services should be required to increase the captioning of their content on an annual basis, resulting in all such broadcasting being captioned on primary and secondary channels within five years. The Government should determine a formula for annual progressive increases of captioning in consultation with industry, people with disability and their representatives.
Recommendation 28: Captioning and audio description
The Australian Government Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications should conduct a review to identify effective, practical ways to increase audio description and captioning on secondary or specialist broadcast television channels.
Recommendation 29: Captioning and audio description
The Australian Government should introduce legislation to provide minimum requirements for audio description and captioning in respect of audio-visual content delivered through subscription video-on-demand, social media and other services that are not covered by the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (Cth). Obligations should be determined in consultation with industry, and people with disability and their representatives.
Recommendation 30: Emergency announcements
The Australian Government, and state and territory governments, should ensure that people with disability can receive and understand emergency and other important public announcements, including by requiring government agencies to provide Auslan interpreters at their emergency and important public announcements.
The Australian Government should amend the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (Cth) to require any television or other company, which broadcasts or re-broadcasts emergency and other important public announcements, to ensure that Auslan interpretation is visible on the screen at all relevant times; and captions are readable, accurate and comprehensible.
Recommendation 31: Captioning and audio description
The Australian Communications and Media Authority should consult with broadcasters and introduce monitoring and compliance measures to support them to:
- comply with accessible service requirements
- provide quality accessible services
- increase organisational capacity to comply with current and future accessible service obligations.
Recommendation 32: Information Standard
Standards Australia should develop, in consultation with people with disability and other stakeholders, an Australian Standard or Technical Specification that covers the provision of accessible information, instructional and training materials to accompany consumer goods, services and facilities.
This Australian Standard or Technical Specification should inform the development of the recommended Digital Communication Technology Disability Standard under section 31 of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth) (see Recommendation 24).
Recommendation 33: Internet via the NBN
The NBN Co should implement a reasonable concessional broadband rate for people with disability who are financially vulnerable, in consultation with them, their representatives and other stakeholders.
Recommendation 34: NDIS
The National Disability Insurance Agency, in consultation with people with disability, should review its policies regarding funding of reasonable and necessary supports as those policies apply to accessible goods, services and facilities, which use Digital Communication Technologies and which can be shown to enable people with disability to enjoy greater independence and participation in all areas of life.
In particular, the NDIA should focus on increasing access to internet plans, computers, tablets, laptops and smartphones and other items that rely on Digital Communication Technologies.
Recommendation 35: Human rights by design
The Disability Reform Council, through the Disability Reform Ministers’ Meeting, should:
- include accessible technology as an outcome area in the next National Disability Strategy to improve access to Digital Communication Technologies for people with disability
- lead a process for the Australian Government and state and territory governments to adopt and promote human rights by design in the development and delivery of government services using Digital Communication Technologies, and monitor progress in achieving this aim.
Recommendation 36: Human rights by design
Providers of tertiary and vocational education should include the principles of human rights by design in relevant degree and other courses in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The Australian Government should engage the Australian Council of Learned Academies to provide advice on how to achieve this aim most effectively within the tertiary and vocational sectors.
Recommendation 37: Human rights by design
Professional accreditation bodies for science, technology, engineering and mathematics should introduce mandatory training on human rights by design as part of continuing professional development.
Recommendation 38: National organisation
The Australian Government should commission an expert body to lead the national development and delivery of education, training, accreditation, and capacity building for accessible technology for people with disability.
Access to technology can offer expanding opportunities to people with disability. With greater access to accessible technology comes greater inclusion within society and more equal enjoyment of human rights, including for instance more inclusive workplaces, better access to education (including lifelong learning), and greater participation in cultural life, in recreation activities, leisure and sport.
Existing inequalities are often perpetuated through access to technology, and access to technology is increasingly central to engagement with essential services and opportunities.
Focus area: Broadcasting and audio-visual services
News, entertainment and other audio-visual content should be made more accessible for people with disability.
The use of accessibility features, especially captioning and audio description, can enable audio-visual content to be enjoyed by people with disability, and especially people with disabilities affecting vision or hearing.
As the media and platforms on which audio-visual content increase and fragment, ensuring accessibility of this content has become more complex. Many people with disability experience difficulty in obtaining functionally accessible audio-visual news, information and entertainment.
People with disability have a right to access news, information and entertainment. This right should apply to all the principal ways in which people access such content, including broadcasting services on free-to-air and subscription television, as well as newer forms of content transmission such as online streaming services and social media.
The Commission makes recommendations to address this problem of functional accessibility through audio description and captioning requirements as well as requiring government agencies to provide Auslan interpreters at their emergency and important public announcements.