IIA puts e-biz 'on notice' to design disabled-friendly sites

In a move that has implications for Web developers, the Internet Industry Association (IIA) has warned online businesses to design user-friendly websites for the disabled or face the risk of legal proceedings.

The IIA's warning comes hot off the heels of a Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) decision issued late last week.

HREOC Inquiry commissioner William Carter QC recommended the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (SOCOG) design a more customized Olympics website to accommodate th needs of disabled users. This follows a ruling on August 24 SOCOG had denied blind user Bruce Maguires' access to the site.

Maguire made a discrimination complaint to the HREOC in June this year, claiming SOCOG had failed to "provide braille copies of information needed to place orders for tickets; of the Games souvenir program, and (failed) to provide a Website which was accessible to the complainant," a HREOC decision statement read.

The HREOC ruled SOCOG's site was "effectively inaccessible to a blind person."

SOCOG faces a September 15 deadline to "do all that is necessary to render its Website accessible to the complainant."

Peter Coroneos, executive director of the IIA, stressed the onus was on the business commissioning Internet work to keep design requirements for the disabled on their agenda. While he said the accessibility of the site is not the responsibility of Web developers, Internet service providers (ISPs) or systems integrators, as demonstrated by the Maguire-SOCOG case, it is an area of development deserving more skills and attention from the players.

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