AccessibilityOz is an accessibility consultancy based in Australia and the United States whose mission is to make organisations more accessible to people with disabilities. Gian Wild, Founder and Director of AccessibilityOz lifts the lid about her company, and gives her insight into the importance of accessibility in the workplace.
I’ve been working in accessibility for many years. Most notably, I spent six years with the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines Working Group contributing to WCAG2.
At our company we offer a range of accessibility services and products to organisations and government departments around the world. Over the past decade we have completed hundreds of audits and run training sessions and seminars for many clients. Throughout this time, we have worked with organisations such as the United Nations, Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Bureau of Meteorology and McDonalds.
Providing a high standard of accessibility is essential for any business as twenty percent of the population has a disability that affects their daily life – that’s a lot of potential customers! Perhaps more importantly is the realisation that often these disabilities are hidden, and the person sitting next to you could have a disability.
So ensuring that web content can be used by all users is essential. Often the web is the only way for some people with disabilities to access content or functionality; for example, a quadriplegic can’t do their own grocery shopping, but with an accessible online grocery site, they can. A blind or visionimpaired person can’t see a web site, but with a product called a screen reader, they can access a web site just like anybody else.
Fortunately for people affected by a disability, the importance of accessibility is becoming more and more of an issue for organisations. The Department of Justice in the US has been actively reviewing web sites for accessibility compliance and suing organisations that do not comply to the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, Version 2.0. However, accessibility is quite a complex issue. It encompasses the needs of a whole range of people with disabilities; including visual, hearing, cognitive and physical disabilities. Some people think that web accessibility is just about people with vision impairments, but it is so much more than that.
As a result, organisations are becoming more and more accessible, but there is still a long way to go. In the US there is a requirement called Section 508 which is heavily based on the first version of the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, which is now out-of-date. When the US Department of Justice tests web sites for accessibility compliance they test against the second version of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, therefore it is essential that the firm you hire has experience with this second version.
When we consult with our clients on accessibility, we come in and talk to stakeholders about the systems used within an organisation and prioritise what needs to be reviewed first. Often – especially in large organisations – there are a large number of systems that need to be assessed. It is essential that issues are prioritised appropriately. We often start with an accessibility audit of the most popular public-facing web site, but we also look at mobile sites and apps as well as accessibility procedures around releasing documents, video and content on social media.
In order to assist organisations in becoming more accessible, we have an automated accessibility testing tool (OzART) for those companies that have their own accessibility team. We also have a database of over 700 accessibility errors, code, screenshots and solutions for developers to review when coding a site or mobile app. Plus we have the world’s only fully accessible video player, OzPlayer, so people can embed videos in their site from YouTube or other sources and be sure that users can access the video properly.
As accessibility is a universal issue our client base is quite diverse, and we have small not-for-profit clients, government clients and large industry clients. Furthermore, I regularly speak at web and accessibility conferences around the world, which is how most people find out about us.
As a result of our commitment to empowering people with disabilities, we also actively hire people with disabilities. As of April, 2016, 42% of our staff has a disability. Our staff are the lifeblood of AccessibilityOz, and our mission statement is to make the world a more accessible place.
Looking towards the future, we are optimistic that our company will continue to grow and develop. However, expanding from Australia into the US, UK and Europe is quite time-consuming. Although we have staff across Australia, the US, UK and Poland, our senior staff have to do a lot of travelling, which can be exhausting, and it’s a very long flight from Australia to get to anywhere in the world!
Nonetheless, we very much enjoy the work we do, and find it very rewarding to be helping the world become a more accessible place!