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E-accessibility vital says Commissioner

Human Rights Commission

1 December 2006

E-accessibility vital says Commissioner on Disability Day

Human Rights Commissioner Robyn Hunt today welcomed the UN initiative of singling out e-accessibility as the theme for the International Day of Disabled Persons (3 December).

"Without accessibility features some people cannot use the information on the web at all," Ms Hunt said when speaking at a function to mark International Disability Day at Te Papa.

Public and private sector websites which aren't accessible risk denying people the basic democratic right to participate in society and exercise their responsibilities as citizens. Many people also need access to technologies such as adapted computers and software to access digital information.

Ms Hunt said e-accessibility was a basic human rights issue that is expected to shortly receive the backing of international law. The draft International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, expected to be ratified next year.

The draft Convention calls on members to "provide information intended for the general public to persons with disabilities in accessible formats and technologies appropriate to different kinds of disabilities in a timely manner and without additional cost".

Laurence Zwimpfer, deputy chair of the UNESCO National Commission in New Zealand and chair of UNESCO's Intergovernmental Programme on Information for All, said the Convention urged the media and business to do the same with their services.

Disabled people are at a considerable disadvantage by not being able to access information technologies. More jobs are advertised on the Internet than in the print media according to the latest ANZ job survey.

Ms Hunt said that e-accessibility should not be regarded as an "add-on". Rather it made sound economic sense by ensuring websites reached many new audiences, including the 20 per cent of New Zealanders who are disabled.

Accessible websites are compatible with new browser technologies deployed by mobile phones and that there is a clear link between accessibility and greater traffic. "Accessibility increases reach and that is the goal of every website," she said.

Universal accessibility of websites can be done by considering the following:
* Site designers need to ensure the pages can be magnified

* Can be read by screen readers

* Don't rely on using a mouse

\* Are clear and understandable

ENDS

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