Dr. Arch has been working in the field of digital accessibility for over 20 years, joining Intopia as a Principal Consultant in mid-2017. In his earlier career Dr. Arch was involved in agriculture, natural resource economics and information management. Since 2000, he has established the digital access team at Vision Australia, worked on ageing and disability at the W3C in Europe and as the senior accessibility and inclusion expert in the Australian Government, including at the Digital Transformation Agency before joining Intopia.
Dr. Arch is currently the Chair of Standards Australia’s IT-40 ICT, Accessibility Committee and is an active member in the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative.
Standards Australia (SA): When did you first become involved in standards development?
Dr. Andrew Arch: My first job in web accessibility was with Vision Australia in 2001 and I became involved in the Web Accessibility Initiative at the W3C. The Education and Outreach Working Group’s role was to develop strategies and resources to promote awareness, understanding and the implementation of web accessibility. This included working with the Guidelines Working Group to promote WCAG 1.0 (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines version 1). When WCAG 2.0 was subsequently released, I was working for the W3C on ageing and accessibility. More recently, I worked for the Digital Transformation Agency and contributed significantly to the governments Digital Service Standard.
SA: How do standards impact and interact with your industry?
AA: Standards provide the framework to address the technical requirements of accessibility. However, like any technical standard, they need to be applied with the end user in mind. Fortunately, WCAG has evolved to include more usability issues over time but that does leave some of the success criteria open to debate about pass or fail. Accessibility standards provide a baseline for implementing digital accessibility with the next step being understanding and considering how people actually use digital products and interact with technology.
SA: In our ever-growing digital world, why are accessible standards important?
AA: The web accessibility standards provide a baseline for making digital products more accessible for people with disability. Additional guidance that the W3C provides along with the WCAG standard helps designers and developers address the ways assistive technologies such as screen readers, screen magnifiers, voice input etc can better interact with products. They also provide advice on meeting the needs of people who interact differently, such as with a keyboard but no mouse, or those who might be colour blind or need to change text size or colours.
SA: What is the future of standardisation?
AA: As the web and digital industries continue to mature, it seems they’re turning more to standards for guidance to be sure they are safe and/or usable. That is certainly the case with the recently published AS EN 301 549:2020, Accessibility requirements for ICT products and services, which extended WCAG to address associated issues such as the physical use of ATMs and kiosks. This recognises that it’s more than just what’s on the screen that makes a product usable.