Digital Gap Initiative, the AHR and Public Interest Advocacy Centres invite you to a very special seminar…

You’ll remember from our 2016 Wrap-Up that we were eagerly spruiking Friend of DGI, Lainey Feingold’s then new book, Structured Negotiation, A Winning Alternative to Lawsuits, which at the time had been recently published by the American Bar Association (ABA).

We can finally reveal just why it was that our little organisation was promoting this book by the renowned U.S. disability civil rights lawyer so enthusiastically.

Through the usual rigour of our forensic research in the area of digital inaccessibility – DGI after all being the CSI of digital access crimes – we had initially learned that disability rights advocates in the US had, like us, been similarly pushing to make the digital world accessible to everyone.  Their work, however, had led to more immediate outcomes than had occurred to date in Australia, including many more talking ATMs, accessible websites and mobile apps, talking prescription labels, accessible pedestrian signals, audio description and accessible health care and financial information.  What we learned again and again through the above advancements is how many had significantly benefited from an approach pioneered and developed by Lainey through her twenty plus years’ experience representing blind people and their organisations across the US.  This approach came to be known as Structured Negotiation.

When looking for a high-profile personality to open our inaugural World Usability Day event at Parliament House, Canberra in November, 2015, we reached out to Lainey, firstly advising her of our own efforts to make the digital world accessible “Down Under”, and then our request.  She rewarded us with the boundless generosity we would later come to know her by when she agreed, and kindly prepared a special video message to all those who gathered with us to celebrate the occasion.

Our networking with other disability rights advocates in the US continued in 2016, including with Blind Film Critic, Tommy Edison (after being kindly connected to him by local Friend of DGI, Rick Randall) and esteemed accessibility guru, Jim Thatcher, kept forcing us back into Lainey’s orbit, with both regularly referring to her in conversation and how highly regarded she was in our space.  Lainey herself then reconnected with us to alert us to her book’s release in September that year.  Then when Jim’s website went down and we were unable to raise a response from him, concerned, we reached out to Lainey who advised us that Jim had become unwell and connected us up with his wife, Diana Seidel.  Before we knew it, we had offered to step up to the plate and host his invaluable website as a historical archive [here].

Regular contact with Lainey continued into the New Year when she advised us of her intention to take a break from the exhaustion of “Trump’s America” and visit some friends in Sydney.  Seeing this as way too good an opportunity to pass up (we’re like that;), we floated the idea of returning the favour she had so kindly done for us at our Parliament House event by offering to coordinate our efforts to host a seminar promoting her book, and where she could also share her learned strategies and open discussion with disability rights lawyers how these might be similarly applied here in Australia.  Without very much coaxing at all, we were able to easily convince Lainey to agree, and the rest as they say is history.

And so it is with great esteem that the Digital Gap Initiative, along with the Australian Human Rights Centre (AHRC) and Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC), invites you to:

Structured Negotiation and the quest for equal access in the digital age: lessons from the US disability rights movement

with US disability rights lawyer Lainey Feingold

Portrait photograph of Lainey Feingold

Date: Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Time: 5.30pm – 7pm

Venue: Ashurst Australia, Level 11, 5 Martin Place, Sydney

 

Order of events:

5.30pm              Light refreshments

6pm – 7pm       Seminar and Q&A

At the seminar, Lainey will discuss her 20+ years of collaboration to advance disability civil rights and how strategies used in the United States might be applied here in Australia. She will also bring the audience up-to-date on what is happening with U.S. digital accessibility court cases, laws, and regulations. Websites are global, tech companies are global and digital advocacy is global too.

RSVP*

*For screen reader users, we recommend using the Firefox browser to RSVP on the Eventbrite website – or please email diane.macdonald@unsw.edu.au to register your interest.

 

Lainey’s book, Structured Negotiation, A Winning Alternative to Lawsuits, tells the story of the dispute resolution process she pioneered that avoids lawsuits in favour of win-win solutions to complex legal issues. Lainey and her clients have used Structured Negotiation with some of the largest organisations in the United States to protect and advance the rights of blind people to access digital information and other technologies. The book can be purchased on the night (limited copies available). For readers with print disabilities, Structured Negotiation is available in epub format through the ABA, or with enhanced typesetting enabled in the ebook version from Amazon or on Bookshare.

Can we Bank on Anna Bligh bringing the “Absolutely Everybody” stamp to her new role?

When she was Queensland Premier, Anna Bligh championed the state’s “Absolutely everybody” disability policy, saying that “a Queensland that is inclusive and accessible to all community members will be better for everyone.”

The “Absolutely Everybody” theme was based on the popular song by Vanessa Amorosi, featured in her 1999 album, “The Power”.

In February 2017, Anna Bligh was appointed CEO of the Australian Bankers’ Association (ABA).

After publishing our first editorial on CommBank’s Albert EFTPOS tablet way back in September 2015, we were invited to an interview with the ABA and informed that their Industry Standards on Accessibility of Electronic Banking, introduced in 2002, were currently under review.  The ABA further informed us that they would be consulting with stakeholders on updating these standards to ensure the ongoing accessibility of banking in a digitally changing environment (with hopes that the review would be completed by mid-2016).  Some twelve months later we had heard nothing further, so reached out to the ABA and were advised in December 2016 that the review was still underway and that we would receive an invite early in the New Year with a copy of the draft principles for comment.  Upon receiving in late January we were disappointed that this redrafting had replaced the standards with “Guiding Principles for Accessibility”, so in effect what would appear to be a watering down, upsetting at a time when more and more inaccessible EFTPOS terminals and other devices used in retail are being released onto the market totally unregulated.

We have since submitted our response to the ABA’s draft of their “Accessibility Guiding Principles for banking services” highlighting our concerns that they fall well short of providing an effective pathway to Accessible Banking Products and Services.

We are sadly unable to share our set out concerns, and our recommendations, until the Principles have been finalised which will not be until at least mid-year.  Rest assured though, in our usual way we have provided open, constructive feedback, with the objective of assisting the ABA and its member banks to better serve the community, especially people with disability, older persons and others who experience barriers to inclusion in the digital transformation era.

What we can explain to our faithful readers here, however, is the difference between Standards and Guiding Principles.

Principles are quite different from both rules and standards – at least from a legal standpoint.  Both rules and standards provide a framework that is, in theory, sufficient for resolving a particular issue in a legal dispute, whereas the term, “principle” only provides guidance for the interpretation or application of a rule or standard. Principles by themselves do not resolve legal issues.

We can also cite the following information on the benefits of standards from the Standards Australia website:

“Australian Standards ensure goods and services consistently perform the way they are intended. They support the economy, improve safety and health, use our national resources more efficiently and improve our quality of life.

  1. Standards give businesses and consumers’ confidence that the goods and services they are developing or using are safe, reliable and will do the job they were intended for.
  2. Standards provide a platform on which to build new and exciting ideas. As our world changes, new Standards are introduced to reflect the latest technologies, innovations and community needs – redundant Standards are discarded.
  3. Products that comply with Australian Standards have a competitive edge over products that don’t – consumers know the difference. Australian exporters using international Standards have a head start when they move into overseas markets.
  4. Standards ensure products manufactured in one country can be sold and used in another. Standards reduce technical barriers to international trade, increase the size of potential markets and position Australian firms to compete in the world economy.

Standards help make laws and regulations consistent across Australia. Standards offer an alternative to regulation, with less red tape and business costs, while still providing security for families and small business consumers.”

On 15 April 2002, when Dr Sev Ozdowski OAM, Acting Disability Discrimination Commissioner, launched the inaugural ABA’s Standards for making electronic based services more accessible to people with disabilities and older Australians, there was a resounding note of optimism in his address, and a sense of commitment from the ABA and its member banks to meet the challenge of implementing the standards.  It was evident that a lot of hard work and collaboration between the ABA, the banks and community stakeholders had gone into developing the standards.  And generally speaking, the standards led to marked improvements for accessible banking services in the intervening years.

The challenge for Anna Bligh now is to ensure that the ABA invests in accessibility of banking services for Absolutely Everybody.  You can perhaps start helping her in her new role by signing our Change.org petition.

DGI 2015 Wrap-up and what’s ahead for 2016

How DGI was born

Gisele Mesnage founded the Digital Gap Initiative (DGI) on a stormy Sunday in Sydney on 7 December 2014.

Gisele recalls:

“At the time I was in the midst of a legal action pursuant to the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) against supermarket giant Coles, over the accessibility of their website. It was at least the 12th DDA complaint I had lodged over web accessibility issues since 2001. My experience in conciliating these cases led me to believe that a more systemic approach – including legislative reforms – was needed to tackle digital accessibility issues in our digital age. So on Sunday 7 December 2014 I was bouncing ideas on this question over the phone with a friend, Leah Grolman. We were both drinking Rooibos tea and chatting between breaks in the wild thunderclaps that raged over Sydney. By the end of the storm, the Digital Gap Initiative had been born and named.”

Connecting

Gisele then connected with people who shared the vision for the goals of DGI.  On 15 April 2015 an inaugural meeting of an informal DGI management committee was held over Skype.  It was decided that DGI would operate as a network.

Launch events in Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra

Melbourne – Global Accessibility Awareness Day

On 13 May 2015 the company AccessHQ hosted an event at its Melbourne offices to launch DGI.  Ted McCoskey, who had taken on the role of President of DGI, and Gisele Mesnage, founder of DGI, both spoke at this gathering.

Sydney – Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD)

This was followed by a bigger launch event at the Sydney Hilton on 21 May 2015, Global Accessibility Awareness Day. The event was again sponsored by AccessHQ and attended by over 50 government and business representatives.  Ted and Gisele again addressed this gathering.  One of the guests at the event was Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon, who invited DGI to hold a launch event at Australian Parliament House in Canberra.

Parliament House, Canberra – World Usability Day (WUD)

The Canberra launch took place at Australian Parliament House on 12 November 2015 on World Usability Day (WUD).

The event was co-hosted by Senators Rachel Siewert and Lee Rhiannon (the Greens) and Senator Jo Lindgren (Liberal Party) and Senator Carol Brown (ALP).

The launch event, opened by DGI Founder, Gisele Mesnage (download Opening Speech document here) was attended by 60 people, including parliamentarians and other government representatives, as well as business and community leaders.

The highpoint of the event was Gisele’s opening speech (below), and a panel discussion hosted by Ted McCoskey. Panellists included Greg Barnett (AccessHQ), Roger Sniezek (Coles), Andrew Arch (Digital Transformation Office), Christos Petrou (IBM), Alex Varley (Media Access Australia), Johmar Gazo (NAB), Sarah Pulis (PWC) and James Newton (DGI).  The animated discussion explored the theme of inclusion and innovation.  The event received a special video message from Lainey Feingold of the Lainey Feingold Legal Office in the US.

Acknowledgements

We extend warm thanks to all those who donated to our chuffed.org appeal and made it possible for three DGI members to travel to Canberra to participate in the event.  We also wish to extend special thanks to Coles for paying for the catering at the event, to NAB for a $1,000 donation, and to all panellists and other supporters who assisted us with practical tasks.

Other 2015 Highlights

Our Focus for 2016

  • Accessible online shopping such as Coles
  • Continued campaigning on Touch Screen POS devices such as the “Albert”
  • Advocating for designated accreditation codes to be applied to ICT, web and other digital accessibility skills training under the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA)
  • Accessibility and ICT public procurement
  • Advocating against PDF as a sole format for online downloadable documents
  • Networking
  • Opening up discussion on compliance-based standard on digital accessibility

Digital Gap Initiative Takes Call for Action on Digital Inclusion to Parliament

On 12 November 2015, Digital Gap Initiative will call on the government to kick-start serious discussion on what is being done to ensure access for up to 1 in 5 Australians currently locked out of the digital marketplace.

The DGI launch event at federal Parliament, hosted by cross-party representatives Senators Rachel Siewert, Jo Lindgren and Carol Brown, follows DGI launch events in Sydney and Melbourne, and coincides with World Usability Day. The Canberra event features a panel discussion with Coles, the Digital Transformation Office (tbc), IBM, NAB, PwC Australia, AccessHQ and Media Access Australia, chaired by DGI President, Ted McCoskey.

“The panel will focus on ‘Innovation’. How can Australia be innovative in this domain? What are business and government doing to ensure that when they innovate, they innovate for everybody?” Mr McCoskey explains.

Finish Reading: Digital Gap Initiative Takes Call for Action on Digital Inclusion to Parliament

Chuffed.org Campaign for Digital Gap Initiative’s Canberra Debut

Digital Gap Initiative has been invited to Canberra on World Usability Day (12 November, 2015) to voice our message with our politicians, business leaders, academics and the wider community who have the power to ensure that this issue is addressed. We need to show them what it’s like for a person who is blind, for example, to use websites and touch-screen payment devices whose design overlooks accessibility.

About 1 in 5 Australians live with disability (approximately 20% of the population). Digital accessibility is therefore an incontrovertible issue for our country’s political agenda.

To help us advocate for digital access to be prioritised for the political agenda at our Canberra event, and build good foundations for future research and campaigning, we have launched a fundraising campaign on Chuffed.org, a crowd-funding platform that supports social causes by allowing them to raise funds in this way.

Finish Reading: Chuffed.org Campaign for Digital Gap Initiative’s Canberra Debut

Councils set to leave a bad Taste in the mouth of disabled event-goers across Australia

Hobart City Council is on the verge of signing up to use the Commonwealth Bank’s inaccessible EFTPOS tablet, Albert as the key payment device for their 2015/16 Taste of Tasmania food festival.

The Digital Gap Initiative wrote about this device on 18 September, after its Founder and President met with CommBank to express their concerns.

Digital Gap Initiative Tasmanian member, James Newton, met with Hobart City Council representatives last Friday, 25 September.

Finish Reading: Councils set to leave a bad Taste in the mouth of disabled event-goers across Australia

Digital Gap Initiative heading to Parliament

We’re excited to announce that Digital Gap will be taking its message of inclusive design and a call for national compliance standards on Accessibility to Canberra on November 12 2015 at Parliament House at 10am. The event has been scheduled to coincide with the 10th anniversary of World Usability Day which seeks to use innovation to ensure that technology enhances the lives of people rather than placing additional barriers to everyday life.

Finish Reading: Digital Gap Initiative heading to Parliament

Launch of Digital Gap Initiative

Don’t exclude us from the digital era: Call for National Standards on Digital Accessibility

Gisele Mesnage is known to many as the blind woman from Sydney who took on Coles Supermarket. The highly publicised, landmark case challenged the supermarket giant over accessibility issues on their online shopping website.

The Case settled amicably in February 2015 however, Gisele was motivated more than ever to continue in her quest in closing the digital gap that exists for as many as 20% of Australians affected by disability and for older people.

Finish Reading: Launch of Digital Gap Initiative