Websites to meet 'ageing needs'

A large majority of companies reportedly do not take people with disabilities or elderly users into consideration when developing websites or apps.

The private sector has been urged to make its digital assets more accessible to elderly Australians or people with disabilities.

An estimated 98% of websites in Australia do not meet global web access standards while a large number of tablet and smartphone apps hardly pass muster.

Disability Discrimination Commissioner, Graeme Innes, says with disability, the web becomes more vital and at the same time more difficult to access.

Mr Innes fears people with disabilities and elderly Australians will be sidelined when the National Broadband Network is built.

“As more cable is laid, everything we do online will get faster, easier and more connected.

“But there's no point laying the tracks if Australians with disability can't get on the train,” the NBN Ambassador for Disabilities said.

Mr Innes said around 18% of Australians had a disability, which is about the size of Melbourne's population.

He warned the figure was increasing, saying by 2056, a quarter of Australians are expected to be aged over 65 years, and half of them would have some form of disability.

Mr Innes was recently speaking in Sydney at the launch of AccessIQ, an online one-stop-shop for web accessibility tips and resources run by not-for-profit organisation Media Access Australia.

Better access for people with disabilities can be fostered by using large font sizes and using the ‘right’ colours to help people with partial blindness navigate better on the web.

Assistive technology in web browsers let people “hear” the text contained in web pages but the content needs to have meaningful (alternate) text descriptions. Online videos should also have captions so it's meaningful to people with hearing loss.

Mr Innes claims he receives more than 1,000 complaints each year, with a high proportion of people unhappy with the lack of accessibility with certain websites.

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