Accessibility is a mandatory standard for government agencies. Test your content against the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) success criteria. Agencies should commit to improving their performance against the standard.
Use WCAG to guide your agency about accessibility
‘WCAG’ stands for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. WCAG 2.1 is the current version. The Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C) is working on version 2.2 for release in 2023.
WCAG is a stable standard to meet specific needs of people with disability. The standard acknowledges its limitations in meeting needs for people with cognitive and learning disabilities.
The standard is integrated with Style Manual guidance to help you create inclusive content.
Meet WCAG level AA, but aim higher
Accessibility is a mandatory government standard. WCAG 2.1 is a baseline accessibility standard for Australian Government content.
Test your content against the WCAG 2.1 success criteria. You need to meet the level A criteria to meet level AA.
Your agency will need to make its own assessment about whether content achieves a WCAG 2.1 level AA standard. You'll find the WCAG success criteria that relate to any given Style Manual topic on the relevant page.
Not all level AA success criteria are covered in the Style Manual. You will need to refer to WCAG 2.1 to check if there are more criteria to consider for a specific piece of content. For example, the manual does not address markup language specifics, such as success criterion 4.1.1 (parsing).
Aiming higher than the level AA standard will improve usability.
The Style Manual relates the level AAA standard to some topics. This promotes the aim that government content meets the highest WCAG 2.1 standard whenever possible.
Include an accessibility statement
An accessibility statement gives users:
- information about how you’ve addressed WCAG
- information about the technical specifications you’ve tested
- evidence of a commitment to accessibility.
For example, your statement might mention how your agency is working on its implementation of the standard.
Include a page on your site that explains the extent your service or product complies with WCAG 2.1.
You can check how the Style Manual measures up to level AA in its accessibility statement.
Other accessibility guidance and standards
The Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C) has a working draft of recommendations that will expand on WCAG: Making content usable for people with cognitive and learning disabilities.
You may also need to refer to other relevant W3C standards.
For procurements, check Accessibility requirements suitable for public procurement of ICT products and services (AS EN 301 549:2016). Refer to the digital sourcing Consider First policy, which applies to non-corporate Commonwealth entities.
Legal and policy frameworks
Accessibility is integral to Australian Government policy for digital transformation, and written into the Digital Service Standard.
Failure to provide equal access to government services (including information) can be a failure of obligation under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992.
Australia has obligations under international frameworks, including:
- the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
- the World Intellectual Property Organization Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled (Marrakesh Treaty).
These international frameworks are relevant to Australia’s domestic policy settings through the National Disability Strategy.
The digital edition recognises accessibility as an integral aspect of government content.
The sixth edition mentioned the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) but did not go into detail about how to implement accessibility in relation to writing and editing.
Content Guide had an overview on accessibility that referred to specific success criteria in WCAG.
About this page
ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) (2020) Accessibility statement, ABC website, accessed 4 December 2020.
Australian Inclusive Publishing Initiative (2019) Inclusive publishing in Australia: an introductory guide, AIPI website, accessed 5 November 2020.
Australian Taxation Office (2020) Digital inclusion guide, ATO website, accessed 25 November 2020.
Interaction Design Foundation (n.d.) Usability, IDF website, accessed 5 November 2020.
Microsoft (2016) Inclusive design, Microsoft website, accessed 12 November 2020.
Standards Australia, Accessibility requirements suitable for public procurement of ICT products and services, AS EN 301 549:2016.
Stephanidis C (n.d.) ‘Design for all’, in The encyclopedia of human-computer interaction (2nd edn) [online], Interaction Design Foundation website, accessed 5 November 2020.
Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C) (2020) Making content usable for people with cognitive and learning disabilities [working draft], W3C website, accessed 27 August 2020.
W3C (2018) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1, W3C website, accessed 1 November 2020.
W3C Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) (2020) Accessibility fundamentals, W3C website, accessed 5 November 2020.
W3C WAI (2017), ‘Diverse abilities and barriers’, Accessibility fundamentals, W3C website, accessed 23 November 2020.
W3C WAI (2019), W3C accessibility standards overview, W3C website, accessed 23 November 2020.
W3C WAI (2020), What’s new in WCAG 2.2 [working draft], W3C website, accessed 26 November 2020.
W3C WAI (2015) ‘Writing for web accessibility’, Tips for getting started, W3C website, accessed 5 November 2020.
This page was updated Monday 14 August 2023.