Big issue with the crucial NDIS website


A disability rights advocate warns navigating the site could be overly challenging for some, while a rating of online accessibility puts it below best practice.

Paul Harpur, a law lecturer from The University of Queensland, lost his vision after a train accident and said the NDIS website is flawed for people that rely on screen readers.

“If you’re using a screen reader, you’ll have to read through a hundred words, or six hundred words or a thousand words to get to the part you need,” Dr Harpur said. “It’s time consuming.

“If you have a disability and things take you a bit longer … you can assume you’ve got less time (than people without disabilities) already.

“If you then have to use a computer system that takes you a bit longer, you’re … trying to fit that into an already over busy schedule.”

Paul Harpur, with his guide dog, is a disability rights advocate. Picture: Josh Woning.Source:News Corp Australia

Among his other issues with the NDIS website are broken links and aspects of electronic forms that are difficult to use with a screen reader.

Despite opting to self-manage his fund, Dr Harpur said he relied on his family for help using the NDIS website, particularly when it comes to uploading documents.

“I’ll manage it myself and they just upload the stuff,” he said. “I get my dad to do it because he’s retired … I can email him and he’s happy to do it.”

Dr Harpur is surprised that the website is not more accessible for people with vision impairment.

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A disability rights advocate has expressed concern about accessibility standards of the NDIS website.

A disability rights advocate has expressed concern about accessibility standards of the NDIS website.Source:Supplied

The NDIS website promotes its commitment to meetings the international Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, set by World Wide Web Consortium, incorporating the A and AA requirements.

These guidelines were designed to ensure people with disabilities can access and navigate websites.

The NDIS website does not meet all AAA accessibility guidelines, despite being the national agency for disability support funding.

While the A and AA guidelines are enough to comply with the Disability Discrimination Act, the more robust AAA standard is considered best practice.

In particular, AAA compliance provides a better experience for people with screen readers.

“If a screen reader user is viewing a list of links and hears their software announce ‘click here’ … it will pass as AA if the links are associated with each other in a paragraph or list,” the Digital Accessibility Centre said.

Paul Harpur says the NDIS website is challenging to use for people with vision impairments.

Paul Harpur says the NDIS website is challenging to use for people with vision impairments.Source:News Limited

To be AAA compliant, the link would include text, such as ‘to read the blog about X, click here’, which is more accessible.

The Victorian Government has their own accessibility requirements, which state that NDIS departments must comply with AAA standards, despite the NDIS itself only needing to meet the A and AA guidelines.

The Digital Accessibility Centre, which assesses websites compliance, said that while AA compliance is a “very good” commitment to accessibility, AAA would provide the best experience for all users.

However, AAA guidelines can be more expensive and challenging for web designers to implement.

A disability rights advocate has expressed concern about accessibility standards of the NDIS website.

A disability rights advocate has expressed concern about accessibility standards of the NDIS website.Source:Supplied

A spokesperson for the National Disability Insurance Agency said the website exceeds government standards but conceded improvements were made in January “after extensive consultation with participants, families, carers, providers and sector representatives”.

“The structure, design and functionality of the new website has been guided by users including members of Blind Citizens Australia who assisted in the design and testing of the new website to better meet the needs of people who are blind or vision impaired,” the spokesperson said.

“The NDIA will continue to improve the website functionality and design, in line with accessibility standards.”

But Dr Harpur said the website remained challenging for those using screen readers.



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