FACS Website Accessibility Policy
How we’re meeting the global Website Accessibility Policy
Purpose of policy
This policy is designed to ensure that all content published on Department of Family and Community Services (FACS) websites is accessible for all users, regardless of physical and cognitive ability. The policy came into effect on 1 January 2016.
Accessible website content is inclusive content that can be read and understood by everyone, regardless of ability. Our goal at FACS is to become a leader in the area of accessible content.
Website accessibility involves creating and structuring website content so that it can be navigated, read or experienced by users regardless of disability.
Disabilities can be visual, auditory, physical, speech-related, cognitive or neurological. Our content needs to be accessible for those using screen readers and assistive technology as well as different devices whether that is a desk top computer, mobile device or lap top.
Our content should also be clear, well written and comprehensible by our clients regardless of educational level, English language skills or cultural background.
FACS is obliged by law to have broad compliance with mandated website accessibility standards.
Background and directives
Accessibility is mandated
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) were developed in cooperation with individuals and organisations from around the world. WCAG aims to provide a universal standard for web content accessibility.
The NSW Government’s Circular on Website Management directed departments and agencies to streamline their websites to focus on customer needs, including meeting mandated accessibility requirements (the WCAG 2.0 Level AA standard) by December 2014.
The federal government mandates all Australian, state and territory government websites to meet WCAG 2.0 Level AA compliance.
Best practice digital writing makes web content more accessible
We are going beyond the technical guidelines to make sure our websites are truly accessible for all FACS clients, web users and our staff.
When creating content, we keep our user in mind at all times. This includes the words we choose, the format used to present information and also following a consistent style so web users know what to expect from us.
Writing in a clear, jargon-free way is always the goal. If we must use a particular formal name or term we seek to explain it.
By implementing better standards for what we produce, we will ultimately produce web content that is more accessible for all our users. This includes clients with cognitive, learning and intellectual disabilities and those from a Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) background.
Benefits of improving website accessibility
- helps us broaden our audience for FACS content
- improves the usability of our sites for all people
- ensures we cater to web users who are blind or with low vision
- makes our digital content easier to use for seniors, people with lower literacy or from CALD communities
- ensures our information can be viewed easily by smartphone/tablet users
- improves the technical performance of our sites such as faster loading times and smaller bandwidth requirements.
- answers questions immediately more often and so reduces the need for clients to seek information using other means such as phone calls or visiting a FACS office
- provides an opportunity for us to review all our content
- makes us compliant with relevant legislation
- reduces our reliance on the PDF document format. This format is not as accessible, mobile friendly or searchable as other types of website content.
Risks of inaccessible web content
Inaccessible content on FACS websites:
- Restricts access to information for people who are blind or with low vision, limited English, or an intellectual disability or learning challenge
- Exposes us to risk of adverse findings from an audit by the NSW Auditor-General
- Could result in complaints from peak bodies and the public about inaccessible content
- Is contrary to a staff culture promoting web accessibility
- Lowers staff productivity, as non-accessible documents take longer to read and comprehend.
Number of people with disability
According to the United Nations, around 15% of the world's population, or an estimated 1 billion people, have a disability. Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics indicate that 20% of the Australian population have one or more disabilities – that’s more than three million people. This number is rising due to Australia’s ageing population.
Consultation and related documents
This policy was developed in consultation with staff in the Ministerial and Communications Services directorate of FACS. We also sought specialist advice including from the FACS Disability Employment Network.
The FACS Digital Accessibility Standard is linked to the FACS Website Accessibility Policy.
Below is a list of terms, abbreviations and keywords used in this document:
Disability – Under the Disability Inclusion Act 2014 (NSW), we talk about “disability" in relation to a person. This could include a long-term physical, psychiatric, intellectual or sensory impairment that, in interaction with various barriers, may hinder the person’s full and effective participation in the community on an equal basis with others.
FACS refers to the NSW Department of Family and Community Services.
FACS Intranet is a website just for FACS staff that can only be accessed internally.
FACS Internet refers to our public website.
Plain English is a set of writing principles developed to guide professionals who write as part of their everyday work. Plain English is clear, concise and easy-to-read. Plain English practice avoids jargon, is accountable (for example, ‘We’ meaning FACS) and uses active verbs, for example, ‘engaging’ not ‘engagement’ and ‘employ’ not ‘the employment of’.
PDF – is short for Portable Document Format. This type of file format is often used to present documents that are long so they are easy to print out. The PDF is designed to be independent of application software, hardware and or an operating system.
Website “accessibility” involves taking steps to make a website easy for everyone to use no matter what their life circumstance. It involves the words we use and the way we create and structure website content so that it can be navigated, read or experienced by a wide range of users no matter their device of choice or particular challenge.
We design our digital channels so those with a visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive or neurological disability or impairment that may affect their access to the web can use them.
Web accessibility also helps people from a range of cultural and language backgrounds, learning and literacy levels and with limited time to browse and absorb information.
Web content is the information you see on a web page or within a web application such as a photographic image, a graphic, piece of written text, a form you need to fill in and even video and audio content.
WCAG - Web Content Accessibility Guidelines are comprehensive and internationally recognised. The guidelines were developed in cooperation with individuals and organisations around the world. WCAG aims to provide a universal standard for web content accessibility.
Scope and application
This policy is to be followed by:
- All staff across FACS who create web content for internet and intranet sites
- Consultants and others creating web content for FACS websites.
This policy should be read in conjunction with the FACS Digital Accessibility Standard.
Accessibility requirements for websites are mandated under government policy, legislation, and through whole-of-government commitments.
The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Commonwealth) requires government agencies to provide information and services in a non-discriminatory accessible manner to ensure that people with disability have the same fundamental rights as others in the community.
In 2008, the federal government ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Articles 9 and 21 of the convention recognise that having equal access to information, communications and services, including on the internet, is a human right.
The Disability Inclusion Act 2014 (NSW) makes it clear that people with disability have the right to access information from government agencies in a way that is appropriate for their disability and cultural background.
From January 2016 all new FACS intranet and internet content follows the WCAG 2.0 Level AA standard.
Digital content that is not accessible will not be published without an accessible alternative. If you would like to request an accessible version of any digital content published on a FACS website please contact us via email@example.com.
We continue to make content published before 1 January 2016 accessible. We are doing this as fast as available resources allow.
Administration of the policy
The Digital team at FACS will administer the FACS Website Accessibility Policy with support from Strategic Communications.
Document approval and distribution
The FACS Website Accessibility Policy is approved by the Executive Director, Ministerial and Communications Services.
Latest version approved: 27 July, 2016
Distribution: This policy has been made available to FACS staff who create web content for internet and intranet sites as well as line managers across the department, FACS communication and digital staff in Ministerial and Communication Services, Strategic Communications Committee members, and staff in FACS Districts.
Document name: Web Accessibility Policy
Authoring Units: Strategic Communications and Digital. Both units are part of Ministerial and Communications Services within the Strategic Reform and Policy Branch of FACS.
Develop communications materials and plan delivery of messages related to accessibility through awareness campaigns and other ongoing communications activity to educate clients and staff.
Ensure that FACS digital publishing systems and processes comply with required accessibility standards. Digital will also manage remedial activity to improve the accessibility of content published prior to the launch of the FACS Website Accessibility Policy.
Executive Directors and District Directors
Promote website accessibility to staff in their directorate.
- Staff across FACS who create web content for internet and intranet sites will ensure that any web content they create is accessible.
- The policy will be resourced from within MACS.
Resources, monitoring and review
FACS has developed a range of writing guides, training and other resources to help our staff create accessible content.
Monitoring and review
The Digital team within Ministerial and Communications Services monitors, reviews and updates this policy as required.