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Background to the Web Accessibility Guidance project

Find out what led to the creation of this guidance, who is delivering it, and what approach was taken to make sure that user needs are met.

Who is delivering this work

This work is being delivered by the Digital Public Service branch at the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA).

Why do we need more guidance?

Based on the Web Standards Self-assessments of 2011, 2014 and 2017, we know that government websites continue to struggle to meet the Web Accessibility Standard, which is based on the international Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1.

Surveys conducted in 2019 and 2020 show that many practitioners have difficulty understanding WCAG requirements as well as basic accessibility practices, and that they’re calling for support.

While there are thousands of web pages across the world explaining WCAG, New Zealand practitioners who responded to the surveys say that they do not always know:

  • which guidance is relevant to their work
  • whether they can trust that the guidance is correct and covers New Zealand accessibility requirements.

Government practitioners say that they want guidance that acts as a central resource in New Zealand — coming from government because accessibility is mandated by government.

Alignment with government priorities

This work to support digital practitioners to meet the Web Accessibility Standard aligns with the Government’s Digital Inclusion Blueprint, which outlines initiatives around digital inclusion and diversity.

The work also supports the Strategy for a Digital Public Service and the Government’s commitment to make more services and information available online.

Websites that do not meet the Web Accessibility Standard present barriers for disabled people and others trying to access government online information and services, posing a risk to government organisations from legal, fiscal, and reputational standpoints.

Meeting the Web Accessibility Standard is also one of the primary outcomes of the Accessibility Charter, launched by the Ministry of Social Development in 2018, which has been signed by core government organisations.

The Minister for Disability Issues is currently developing a new legislative framework to accelerate accessibility in New Zealand. This is likely to include reporting, monitoring and compliance functions. The Accessibility Guidance project supports government organisations to prepare for and ultimately meet the requirements of such legislation, while also supporting existing priorities and outcomes regarding access for disabled people to digital government information and services.

Project approach

We’ve taken a user-centred design approach and tested our work with practitioners from digital delivery teams across the public and private sectors.

Discovery phase

Read about the discovery phase that identified the barriers that practitioners experience and the major themes that came out of the research:

New web content accessibility guidance to be defined by practitioner needs

Creating and testing the solution

In 2020, based on the findings from our research, we created a solution that aims to make it easier for practitioners to make web content accessible.

The idea is to create a suite of new guidance that will enable practitioners to filter the guidance by their role, allowing them to identify and focus on the aspects of accessibility that they can directly affect.

We tested this thinking and the proposed topics for the new guidance with practitioners working in the public and private sectors in New Zealand and overseas.

Read about the results of the 2020 survey:

Web accessibility practitioners take first step in co-designing new guidance for New Zealand

Alpha phase

Prototypes of the web accessibility guidance were drafted, tested, and iterated on the Web Accessibility Guidance project website. From early December 2021 until 30 June 2022, the guidance was publicly shared for feedback from the accessibility community including:

  • digital practitioners who design, build and publish web content
  • disabled people’s organisations, including People First NZ, Disabled Persons Assembly, and IHC
  • a specially created Guidance Review Group made up of interested individuals and organisations from the public and private sectors.

Beta phase

On 1 July, 2022, the project moved into the beta phase to be peer reviewed and prepared for migration to, where it will replace the current guidance in the Accessibility section.

In the meantime, web accessibility guidance will continue to be updated and published on the Web Accessibility Guidance project site, based on user research and ongoing feedback.

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