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Communtity Law Manual | Disability rights | Accessible information about services

Access to shops, transport and other services

Accessible information about services

Access requirements for government websites

New Zealand Government Web Accessibility Standard

The government has set down some specific accessibility requirements for all websites run by government departments – like the Ministry of Justice, Work and Income (as part of the Ministry of Social Development), Statistics New Zealand, the New Zealand Police and the Ministry of Health.

This is called the “Web Accessibility Standard”. The Standard requires these websites to be accessible through assistive technologies or through special accessibility features in mainstream website features (for example, a “show captions” option in a media player). The Standard is based on widely accepted international guidelines (the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines).

The website content has to be presented in a way that makes it possible for the assistive technologies you’re using to successfully present the website information to you. For example, if you’re blind or visually impaired, a picture that you were supposed to click on to go to a topic would not be accessible to you unless text alternatives for the picture were provided in such a way that your assistive technology can recognise and present them to you – for example through a text-to-speech program, or through magnifying the text.

Note: There are a range of state-owned organisations that aren’t public service departments – for example, the Accident Compensation Corporation, Housing New Zealand, and the NZ Qualifications Authority. These other organisations aren’t required to follow the government’s Web Accessibility Standard, but they are strongly encouraged to.

The government recognises that if its websites are not accessible to disabled people, this is a breach of the UN Disability Convention and of our Human Rights Act 1993. The government’s online introduction to its Web Toolkit says that the legal concept of “reasonable accommodation” clearly applies to department websites, and this means that “adequate allowance must be made in designing and planning websites for disabled access”.

UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Article 21

The Disability Convention says that countries like New Zealand who have joined the Convention should take these steps:

  • provide disabled people with information in accessible formats and using appropriate technologies, at no extra cost
  • make sure people can use sign language, Braille and other types of communication when they’re dealing with government services and agencies (see also below, “Your rights to use New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL)”)
  • urge private sector companies to provide accessible information, including accessible websites
  • encourage mass media and internet companies to make their services accessible to disabled people
  • recognise and promote the use of sign language.

To find out more about the Disability Convention and what it means for disabled people in New Zealand, see the section “Rights that are recognised internationally: The UN Disability Convention”, earlier in this chapter.

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