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

Arjen Lentz arjen at lentz.com.au
Tue Aug 28 11:53:58 EST 2012

Hi Adam, all

----- Original Message -----
> >> 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.
> >
> > I'm not sure I understand this statement? The accessibility
> > guidelines
> > apply to all organisations, regardless of their audience.
> > Universities
> > are particularly exposed because they typically have a very broad
> > user
> > base, inclusive of many learning difficulties (vision impairment -
> > but
> > also dyslexia [not strictly a legal accessibility issue]). The most
> > prominent case in accessibility law is an Australian organisation -
> > SOCOG (the Sydney Olympic Games).
> Well don't get me wrong, most universities do make quite a bit of
> effort to
> ensure their 'public' pages are accessible to as wide an audience as
> possible.
> But there's generally no requirement for them to do this, they have
> just
> decided that it would be a good thing. So the argument "but you have
> to"
> won't really work, because they don't have to. And if you go down the
> anti-discrimination route, you may find they just print you a hard
> copy or
> supply the content to you in some other fashion, which meets their
> legal
> requirements but somewhat defeats the goal of getting the IE-only
> restriction
> lifted.
> I'm not saying that all universities will refuse to make their pages
> accessible, I'm just saying that you should consider your arguments
> carefully.

In this case it's an online service providing things like live interaction with course tutors. You cannot just print that ;-)

In terms of disability discrimination act guidelines, see

"These advisory notes are issued by the Australian Human Rights Commission (“the Commission”) under section 67(1)(k) of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 ("the DDA"), which authorises the Commission to issue guidelines for the purpose of avoiding discrimination."

Some chunks of those notes specifically referencing user agents:

"Robust: Content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies. One implication of this principles is that a webpage should not require the use of a specific assistive technology (such as a specific screen reader) in order to be accessible."

"Maximise compatibility with current and future user agents, including assistive technologies."

but here's a caveat:

"The provision of information and online services through the web is a service covered by the DDA. Equal access for people with a disability in this area is required by the DDA where it can reasonably be provided. This requirement applies to any individual or organisation developing a website or other web resource in Australia, or placing or maintaining a web resource on an Australian server. This includes web pages and other resources developed or maintained for purposes related to employment; education; provision of services including professional services, banking, insurance or financial services, entertainment or recreation, telecommunications services, public transport services, or government services; sale or rental of real estate; sport; activities of voluntary associations; or administration of Commonwealth laws and programs. All these are areas specifically covered by the DDA."

A traceroute shows that smarthinking.com is based in the US. It was neither developed in Australia, nor is hosted on an Australian server. So it may not be covered by the act, and an organisation can claim that it cannot reasonably provide accessibility.
However, it's blatantly obvious that that can easily become a standard cop-out, outsource the development and offshore the hosting to stay out of reach of the DDA.

Exec.Director @ Open Query (http://openquery.com) MySQL services
Sane business strategy explorations at http://Upstarta.biz
Personal blog at http://lentz.com.au/blog/

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