[Linux-aus] Browser/OS checks - smarthinking.com

Adam Nielsen a.nielsen at shikadi.net
Mon Aug 27 23:02:02 EST 2012

> One of my thoughts is an indirect approach that might work: wouldn't online
> resources of Australian universities have to comply with federal guidelines
> on accessibility (even when using an external service provider).

Unfortunately no.  And I say that as a web developer who works for an 
Australian university.  They are serving their staff and students, not the 
general public, so they aren't bound by the same guidelines.

> Also other angles and thoughts.

I think you could make persuasive argument if you can point to other 
universities that don't restrict web browsers based on arbitrary criteria. 
Especially given the financial situation of many students, it's not a good 
look to block students who can't afford (or refuse to waste money on) a 
Windows license.

Also as usual, as I'm sure you already know, the people you are writing to 
probably have no idea of the problem, so be nice and explain your reasons. 
Don't assume they're all on Microsoft's payroll and out to stop free software. 
  Most university staff are quite willing to help once they understand the 
problem, you may just have to point them in the right direction (i.e. 
contacting their provider and asking why their students are complaining about 
being blocked.)

On a slightly related note, since we hear a lot about these sorts of problems 
facing free software, I just thought I'd mention that the two largest 
Australian government funding bodies - who provide hundreds of millions in 
research funding to Australian universities annually - both recommend Firefox 
as the preferred browser for accessing their online systems if you want to 
apply for funding.  Both the Australian Research Council (ARC) and the 
National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) actively recommend 
Firefox, but also let you use other browsers if you prefer.  If you have a 
problem with any of their systems one of their first questions is "does it 
still happen under Firefox?  No?  Use that."  It makes a nice change from 
being forced to use IE when things go wrong.

The NHMRC even goes so far as to specifically list Linux as a supported OS[1], 
but I do wonder whether they tested all the way back to Firefox 2.0.  But at 
least some parts of our government are listening :-)


[1] http://www.rgms.nhmrc.gov.au/

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