Bligh and Springborg Breaking the Law: disabled

Andrew Wight | March 2, 2009 – 5:38AM

Premier Anna Bligh and LNP leader Springborg may have violated federal and international law with their respective web sites says a Brisbane man who is
lodging a complaint with the Human Rights Commission.

Les Kerr, who is vision-impaired, is filing complaints against both major parties because neither website complies with federal guidelines on website accessibility
for the disabled.

“I’m not asking for newspapers to print special editions in large text or anything like that, I’m just asking them (the ALP and LNP) to follow the law,”
Mr Kerr said,

“This is something as simple as changing the (font to background
colour) contrast, so that it is easier for the vision impaired to see or changing the coding so font size increases in synch with the rest of the page.”

Speaking to yesterday, Mr Kerr said he contacted the major parties 12 months ago about their websites and more recently about the accessibility
issues on the new websites brought out by both leaders.

Mr Kerr said the irony was that the section of Mr Springborg’s site where the LNP touts its policies for the disabled was one of those he still cannot read.

“The LNP basically told me flat-out that I was lying and that there was no problem accessing the site,” he said.

Mr Kerr said he was disappointed with the dismissive responses he had received while lobbying for better access.

“I think the reason more disabled people don’t bring up this issue is that so many of the public relations people, the marketing people, and design people
of these sites are very unreceptive.

“Bligh and Springborg are supposed to be role models.

“If they can’t follow the law, how do they expect the rest of us to?”

Mr Kerr, who has a degenerative vision condition and some motor difficulties, said the Commonwealth’s Disability Discrimination Act
1992 makes disability discrimination unlawful and aims to promote equal opportunity and access for people with disabilities.

Under the Act, individuals can lodge complaints of discrimination and harassment with the Australian Human Rights Commission, to bring parties to arbitration.

Mr Kerr said if the complaint is still unresolved, the matter could proceed to court – something that has only ever happened once.

“There has only been one successful case brought for this sort of thing in the whole country and they won.”

Nearly ten years ago, a vision-impaired man called Bruce Maguire successfully took action against the Sydney Olympic Committee because the Sydney 2000 website, particularly the ticketing and results tables, were very hard to access for the vision impaired.

Although there is a precedent, Mr Kerr believes the case is stronger because international law may now come into the matter.

“Australia ratified the UN charter on the rights of the disabled in recent years, which makes it clear that the disabled have a right to information.”

Mr Kerr said he wasn’t after money, he simply wanted the sites to change, so the vision impaired could access information like everyone else.

“When I first started to lose my vision, I became housebound, so the internet became my main way to communicate with the world,” he said.

“The Internet is the one place where people should be equal. It’s much easier to make things equal there as well.

“Making a site disability friendly is no more expensive than any other site, its just a matter of designers and their clients making the effort.”

Mr Kerr said after the poor design and the poor response from the major parties, the Queensland Greens would probably be getting his vote in the upcoming
state election.

“I’m an ex-copper and I worked in logging, so my mates would think I’d be the last person to vote Greens,” he said.

“But they are the only ones actually putting the effort in to make their site easier to read.”

Greens MP Ronan Lee said that because one in five Queenslanders had some sort of disability, accessibility was an important issue.

“There are many Queenslanders with some disability and we are working to make our site more accessible to them.”

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