On 22 January 2022, Cliff Edwards joined Peter Greco in an interview for Vision Australia Radio Adelaide Leisure Link program. Cliff Edwards is the former strategic lead for the South Australian Government Online Accessibility Policy and Toolkit, a best practice resource to improve website and online solutions for accessibility and inclusiveness. The toolkit has been developed in consultation with accessibility experts, not for profit sector, government, community and private sector.
Cliff shared the news about the recognition of the toolkit at the Zero Project 2022 Accessibility Awards to be held at the Zero Project Conference on February 23-25 at Vienna, Austria.
Keep in touch with Vision Australia radio in Adelaide on 1197 AM.
(Peter Greco) 00:07
We love bringing you good news. And I think it’s a little bit of good news as far as the area of accessibility goes. With an announcement regarding the Zero Project, just tell us a bit more about it, we’ve got accessibility adviser, Cliff Edwards, Cliff. Thanks for your time.
(Cliff Edwards) 00:21
Yeah, thank you, Peter. Good morning.
Now, tell us about this. This is a very exciting news, some announcements, or not so long ago, that I think would put a lot of smiles on people’s faces as far as accessibility goes.
Yeah. And so earlier this month, the South Australian Government Online Accessibility Toolkit and Policy was named as an awardee of the Zero Project. They have some annual awards, and they’re held in Vienna. So it’s an international awards. And yeah, fantastic recognition for everybody who worked on the toolkit plus the community co-design approach. The toolkit was developed in partnership with key groups like Vision Australia, Royal Society for the Blind, Blind Citizens Australia, and people with disability really drove the initiative. So yeah, it’s a fantastic achievement for everybody involved.
It’s wonderful when a number of different organisations can all collaborate to bring about a successful outcome.
Yeah, yeah. And it was a pleasure to work on the project, obviously met some fantastic people along the way. And I really did highlight the people with disability are experts in the field, probably no surprise to anybody listening. But and, and really the driver for this, the community co-design approach, and yet, especially the partnership with Vision Australia was fundamental in the success.
Now I love the name of the project they got for the recognition, that zero and of course, the zero stands for zero barriers.
Yeah, it’s amazing to see the wealth of projects and the range of projects, I guess that when named as awardees this year, for anybody listening, I encourage anybody to check out because, yeah, there’s some across the board from across the globe, there’s some really innovative projects that have been named this year,
I guess, as a person with a disability, Cliff, it kind of gladdens my heart to know that, you know, there are people in this sort of area when Heaven knows there’s lots of things that are wrong with the world. But, you know, by the same token, there are lots of things that are happening, and it’s good to let people know that they are but also it’s good when it when it’s recognised.
Yeah, absolutely. And what it does do is, obviously, in the case of the Online Accessibility Toolkit, what that does is highlight that approach, from consulting with people with disability and putting them at the forefront of design, it actually puts that in a sort of a global sort of shopfront, I guess. And then you get other jurisdictions, other departments looking at that approach, and everybody wants to be involved in a good news story. So it’s, it really does open the door for just that collaboration between governments and community organisations. So yeah, again, yeah, if anybody’s listening and wants to check it out, I’d encourage anybody to go to the Zero Projects website, I think there’s 76 projects that got up this year. And each one is just a fantastic initiative in its own right,
We will put those links up on our Facebook page, so people can check it out there. Tell us a bit about more about the collaboration. I know that Neil King who spoke on this program in the past, he was very instrumental in this as far as giving advice and you know, being part of it, too.
Oh, absolutely. I worked with Neil, on and off for about nine years, who provided advice in my former capacity in South Australian government, and on a number of projects, and when we sort of started talking about what government needed and the approach taken and the strategy behind that, Neil was certainly a key driver, as was the Digital Access team and people like Josh Crawford and Chris Edwards, as well. And yeah, we started to get the approach into line and, and Neil really drove the strategy around that. So it was a case of listening to experts in the field. And they kind of drove the strategy. And my job was to implement and pull things together. And I think that partnership worked really well and again, highlights that, you know, experts in their fields have got a lot to offer. And if you sit back and just listen and get taken on the ride, there’s a lot of success then can be generated from that and credits to Neil, credit where credit’s due. Neil put a lot of his time and the team’s time, above and beyond into supporting us at that time, develop the strategy and the resources.
Can you tell us a bit more about the toolkit?
Yeah, the toolkit came secondary, I guess. First, we developed the policy, which in itself was at the time quite groundbreaking. And that was a whole of government policy for South Australian government, which really set the scene for web for online accessibility, not just websites, but other applications and accessible procurement and so on. And then what we did is, through surveying, we put out a survey to staff and people with disability and asked about what the barriers are to implementing online accessibility in the workplace, and of course, accessing online government services and so on. And then we identified a need that it’s, the policy was great, but it’s how do you actually implement the policy and, you know, sometimes the WCAG guidelines or the web accessibility content guidelines can be quite complex to understand and navigate. So people wanted a simple to use resource that they could pick up on a Friday afternoon and implement a few changes, and so on. So we started to develop the concept of that, and that became the Online Accessibility Toolkit. So it’s a series of how to guides for example, if you’re a content editor, or work on media and communications, or websites, there’s guidelines in there from how to insert correct heading styles and the importance of those for people with disability using screen readers, as well as colour combinations that you use. And it also goes into deeper subjects, like developers, user experience designers, visual design, and also some guidelines around procurement, and online accessibility testing, and so on. So it’s a complete set of resources. But I guess their success that we’ve seen is it’s simple to use, it’s, it doesn’t focus on everything you need to do to meet the guidelines, but it certainly captures those key points and presents them quite well.
I guess the thing is here, you know, people don’t have to reinvent the wheel, as it were, I mean, they said, there’s guidelines, there’s things in place that people can, you know, resource easily and quickly, to sort of guide them along the way.
Yeah, and we’ve had a lot of positive feedback about that Peter, that people are using it in that way. And people were referencing it and going into meetings and saying, well, the Online Accessibility Toolkit says this or, you know, to help with their argument around how things should be done, and, and there’s a lot of links in there to online accessibility tools that people can use, for example, what it’s actually like to experience navigating a website as somebody with colour blindness, or how to use a screen reader and or dyslexia simulators, and examples like that. So we’ve really tried to, through a consultation at the time with people with disability and the user stories. And obviously, the barriers in on like accessing online services. It was about how do we get that message across that it’s not just a series of standards that you’ve got to follow, there’s actually a human need behind these standards, and a reason why we should do them better.
That’s such a great point, isn’t it? I mean, as you said, there’s a human face or a human entity to this. I mean, it’s not just a matter of some policies been written down or being on a website accessible or otherwise, but you can actually put a human face to it or you know, live examples to it. But to make it real, people can identify with it, even if they may not have had much experience with disability in the past.
Yeah. And that’s a very important point. And one we were really keen at the time to get across when we met with and interviewed and surveyed a lot of people with disability. And the user stories are actually incorporated within the toolkit as reasons why it’s important. But also, what we tried to do is go well, it’s really important for people with disability, but this also impacts on general users, for example, underlining hyperlinks on our website, really good for somebody with colour blindness, but also somebody outside who’s trying to access information on a website on a mobile phone and they’re affected by sun glare, and then links aren’t clear. So in those important ‘Why?’, ‘Why it’s important’ stories. We’ve also incorporated the, from all aspects of not just people with disability, but people living in remote regional community, English as a second language and so on. So I think that’s where the message we got is yeah, like so it becomes quite a powerful resource that there is that human need behind the guidelines and developing in this way is actually good user experience for everyone.
Terrific. Cliff we are out of time, we could talk for hours, I must admit, this is something I’m personally very passionate about. So as I said, it’s great to know that there’s work going on in that area. And now it’s being recognised to which is tremendous to you and all those involved. Congratulations, and thanks for spending a little bit of time with us. And we wish you well for the future.
Thank you, everyone. And thank you, Peter, for your time. And yeah, look forward to seeing what we can create next.
Terrific. That’s Cliff Edwards there, talking about the very important topic of accessibility. Great. Cliff, join us then we should say very big thank you, and special cheerio to Gisele Mesnage one of the one of the team of people that are behind putting this program together with ideas and contacted us. Gisele from the Digital Gap Initiative. Gisele put us on to Cliff about that good news and Cliff came on board. So which was great. So thanks to Gisele. If ever you’ve got a story that you’d like to share with us, go to facebook.com forward slash VA Radio Network. Sam Ricard is there ready to hear from you. Or you can give us a call at the radio station 8234 1197 during business hours, put a 08 in front of that, if you’re outside SA, NT and WA, and a 618 if you’re overseas, we’d love to hear from you.
Digital Gap Initiative acknowledges Cliff Edwards, Peter Greco and Vision Australia Radio – thank you very much for this resource.
You will find the full program at Vision Australia Radio – Leisure Link 22 January 2022 (length: (1:28:21). The Online Accessibility Toolkit interview is at the 1:13:01 mark.
For more information read our article: Two Australian initiatives recognised in the global Zero Project Accessibility Awards 2022.