Our Website Accessibility Policy and FACS Digital Accessibility Standard provides guidance to put our web users at the centre of all that we do.
Digital Accessibility Standard
Put people first
Design for everyone
Follow the Australian Government’s Digital Service Standard
Adhere to WCAG
Know the content types
Write in plain English
Make sure PDFs are accessible
Provide alternative formats
Provide language translation support
Allow for assistive methods
Test, validate and verify
Report, fix and review
Accessible PDF version of the Digital Accessibility Standard
Put people first
Usability is all about putting the needs of people first.
So often in government and large organisations, we put the organisational need first and forget about what people need to successfully engage with us.
When designing, developing and delivering digital services, we follow the design principles in the Australian Government’s Digital Service Standard. We also use the standards for usability from the United States Government.
Both of these resources have excellent tips for building usability into your design and development practice.
Usability testing helps us establish how well a digital service works by watching how users actually use it. At FACS, we undertake usability testing at key points during the design and development process to identify problems and fix them before a service is released.
How do you know if you’re putting people first? Key questions to ask
- Can people easily complete key tasks?
- How quickly can people complete those tasks?
- Can people complete the task on their first try?
- What distractions or barriers do people face? Can you remove those?
- After using the service once, can a person remember enough to use it effectively the next time?
- How much do people like using your service?
Don’t forget to use a responsive design that adapts to a range of devices and screen sizes, and to test on the full range of browsers and platforms that your audience may be using.
Design for everyone
At FACS, we have diverse audience groups.
We provide information in digital formats to a wide range of people in the community, including:
- families and carers
- young people
- older people
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
- people with disability
- people who are homeless
- people who are at risk or in crisis
- people with mental illness
- people with low levels of literacy
- people with diverse learning needs
- people who speak languages other than English.
We also provide information in digital formats to a wide range of people working in our areas of expertise, including:
- internal staff
- employees in other government departments
- professionals working across a range of sectors, including housing, disability, health and human services.
There may be substantial crossovers within all of these groups and we must take everyone’s needs into consideration.
This means that, when we design content that is going to be published in a digital format, we must make sure we’re designing for everyone. While we know that the technical rules around accessibility must be applied, we want to make sure that our designs and information go further than this.
For example, we want our content to meet the needs of people with cognitive disability as well as those with sensory or physical disability. And we want to include people with low levels of literacy or diverse learning needs.
How can we design for everyone?
We can design for everyone by taking the following design ideas into consideration when creating digital content. This work is in addition to following the criteria that outline how we always put people first, adhere to WCAG and write in plain English .
Here’s what you can do:
- Keep interactions brief and simple.
- Keep the visual design uncluttered.
- Organise your content structure well.
- Use a responsive design that adapts to a range of devices and screen sizes.
- Break long content up over several pages and include reminders of where people are up to – for example, Step 2 of 4.
- Show the current task, including its status and progress.
- Provide simple, clear error messages.
- Provide warnings – for example when someone is about to delete a file or exit without saving.
- Only change features on a page if users request to do so.
- Use visual structure and white space well.
- Write simply and clearly. Use plain English or, where relevant, Easy Read.
- Provide a glossary for complex words.
- Warn users of extreme changes in content – such as opening up a PDF.
- Make all interactions as predictable as possible.
- Offer more than one way to find a page.
- Try to help the user to focus. Don't distract people with unnecessary graphics, especially animated graphics.
- Present information in a common sense way to reduce the cognitive energy people need to use to complete tasks on your site. Do the thinking for people at the design stage so they don’t have to work hard when they use your site.
- Use visual cues to highlight important points or sections of the content.
- If possible, eliminate advertisements and sponsored links.
- Make sure the location of the cursor is obvious.
- Make important content noticeable and easy to scan. Avoid background noises or images that distract. Instead, use these tools to focus the user's attention.
- Avoid long lists of options for someone to choose from. Keep the number of choices short and succinct.
- Be flexible in how data is viewed, entered and saved. For example, allow spaces in phone or credit card numbers that people would usually use.
- Use media such as illustrations, icons, photos, video and audio to connect with people with cognitive disability or learning needs.
- Use captions or sign language for videos – we explain more about this here.
- Allow users to stop or pause time-sensitive features, such as videos or rotating banners.
- Help users by doing the maths for them. Where computations are required, such as in eCommerce sites that add the price of the items purchased, tax, shipping and handling, and other charges, perform these computations automatically, so the user does not have to.
- Provide translated materials where relevant. Find out more about language translation support here.
Many of these tips have been collated from the following sources:
- WebAIM’s advice on designing for cognitive disabilities
- AccessIQ’s website outlines practical things that can be done to design for people with cognitive disabilities the practical things can content authors, web developers and web designers can do to increase the accessibility of websites for people with cognitive disabilities
Follow the Australian Government’s Digital Service Standard
Digital Service Standards are a list of criteria that governments must meet when providing digital services. This covers all online products, including websites, intranets, user interfaces such as forms and online services, and mobile apps.
Digital Service Standards are based on putting people’s needs first and in making digital services easy to use.
At FACS, rather than reinvent the wheel, we follow the Australian Government’s Digital Service Standard. This standard came into effect in 2016 and outlines broad usability and accessibility principles for websites and digital services developed at a national level.
This Digital Accessibility Standard takes the advice from the Digital Service Standard around accessibility and expands on it, addressing areas that are specific to FACS, including our approaches and our audiences.
We also recognise the Digital by Default Service Standard used in the United Kingdom. The UK approach has set the best-practice standard for digital service delivery and the Australian Government has modelled their service standard on it.
Adhere to WCAG
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are used widely around the world as a benchmark for web accessibility.
At FACS, we adhere – at a minimum – to WCAG 2.0 Level AA.
Our goal is to take our digital accessibility beyond WCAG. In particular, we carefully consider the needs of people with cognitive disability.
WCAG has four main principles:
- Perceivable – Information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive.
- Operable – User interface components and navigation must be operable.
- Understandable – Information and the operation of user interface must be understandable.
- Robust – Content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents.
For each principle, there are a list of criteria that need to be met to make sure your online content is accessible. There are 38 techniques in total.
The ‘ How to meet WCAG ’ quick reference guide is a helpful starting point.
Then, you need to test and audit the digital product. See the criteria explaining how we always test, validate and verify.
You can also find out more about our criteria for reporting, fixing and reviewing .
Know the content types
At FACS, there are a range of content types. Knowing these types allows us to apply usability and accessibility for all of our audiences. It also helps us understand when we should apply various accessibility techniques.
For example, every single PDF that we publish must be accessible. However, you don’t always need to provide a plain English version of every document or web page – especially if you are publishing an academic text. However, plain English summaries are helpful.
Knowing your content types goes hand in hand with knowing your audience. Then you can work toward providing content that meets your user’s needs.
What are the content types?
When designing and developing apps for mobile or desktop use, all accessibility requirements apply. The W3C article on mobile accessibility is a good starting point. Include all the criteria in the Standard when designing and developing content for apps, including putting people first, designing for everyone, adhering to WCAG, testing with users and writing in plain English.
Documents include everything from legislation to fact sheets.
All documents must be accessible when sharing them online – either on the FACS intranet or on our public-facing websites. Documents should also be made accessible when sharing them widely via email or other online distribution methods.
HTML is the most accessible format and should be used wherever possible. Word is the next most accessible.
Alternative formats should be provided when publishing a document as a PDF, because of known issues on mobile devices.
No scanned PDFs are allowed on FACS websites unless an alternative is provided.
All PDFs should be tagged and have accompanying short summaries. Find out more about PDF accessibility here.
The best starting point for an accessible document is the template. If a template is accessible, the process of ensuring that the final document is accessible becomes easier. A range of FACS templates are available from Ministerial and Communication Services (MACS).
There is also a helpful range of ‘How to Guides’ on producing accessible Word and PDF documents on the FACS Intranet (for internal use).
Most documents should be written in plain English, and long documents should be broken down if possible. However, each business area will need to make an informed decision about writing academic, legal or research material in plain English. Evaluation of the needs of the audience will be critical in each instance. Plain English summaries toward the top of a web page are a great way to help a reader decide if they will access the full content of a longer document or article. Glossaries or word lists also help.
Some factsheets or other external communications might require translation into a range of languages, or an Easy Read version. Please see providing alternative formats for more information.
Forms should be clear and easy to use. You must consider the way the form will be used and the language that you use to explain the steps in completing the form.
The accessibility of the form must be taken into consideration at a technical level and you should follow the WCAG techniques for creating accessible forms. This article from Web AIM has some great advice on how to do this.
Graphics and data
Graphics should be clear and easy to understand. Check that the correct colour contrast ratio has been used. And remember that alternative text must be provided.
When writing alternative text for online content, you need to keep your description brief – preferably under 100 characters. However, if you have a complex diagram or graph that has multiple concepts, you must describe these. If 100 characters is not enough to describe the content effectively, a text description of the content can be provided in a link. When writing alternative content in a program like Microsoft Word or Adobe InDesign, you can provide longer descriptions.
You can make your presentations accessible by following the guidance for colour contrast and the provision of alternative text on images, graphs and data. If you wish to publish your presentation online, a good way to do this is to provide an accessible PDF, as well as the PowerPoint file if possible.
Research reports and papers, evaluation studies and literature reviews may be long and unwieldy for non-specialised readers. When publishing this kind of material on our intranet or public-facing websites, it is important to provide a plain English summary describing what the content is about in a clear and succinct way. Readers can then decide if they would like to read the document. The document itself should be published in an accessible format, with an alternative to PDF provided.