MOVING OUT OF THE SLOW LANE AND ONTO THE
8 June 2000
The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity
Commission today released its report Accessibility of electronic
commerce and new service and information technologies for older
Australians and people with a disability.
Commission President Professor Alice
Tay and Deputy Disability Discrimination Commissioner Graeme Innes
produced the report following a reference from Commonwealth Attorney
General, Daryl Williams, last year.
"New technology and e-commerce
are already benefiting older Australians and people with a disability,
and have enormous potential to do more,’’ Mr Innes said. "The
digital divide can continue to be narrowed, helped along by the efforts
of government, business and community groups."
The report welcomes advances made by
internet service providers, banks and the Federal Government in
combating the serious problems faced by older Australians and people
with a disability.
These problems are common to services
provided by many industries including government, financial services,
retailers, communications companies and web service providers. The
report found that some older people and people with disabilities face a
number of problems in using financial services in bill-paying and
phone-based facilities as well as significant barriers to accessing the
For example, web-sites that rely
heavily on graphics and do not have a text-only option make it extremely
difficult for vision-impaired people to navigate sites. The failure to
standardise telephone services that rely on button pushing put people
with poor eyesight or memory impairment at a disadvantage. Many older
Australians and people with a motor disability find it difficult to use
the older style touch-sensitive keypads still in use in some EFTPOS
Recent statistics released by the
Australian Bureau of Statistics highlight the digital divide, but do
indicate the gap is narrowing in some areas of the financial and retail
Today, 78 per cent of 18-24 year olds
use EFTPOS machines compared with 23 per cent of people 65 and over. The
use of ATM’s by over 55s has increased from 35.2 per cent in the
November quarter in 1998 to 43.8 per cent in the same period in 1999.
The rapidly increasing use of internet services by younger people is not
however mirrored in the over 55s.
The report noted that "For some
people with disabilities, these systems are experienced as a great
advance in access to information and services. The self service model
cannot be expected to suit all users, and may present serious access
barriers to some people with disabilities, but for other people
availability of this model represents independence and equality."
In conducting research for the Inquiry
the Commission consulted with a number of key e-commerce service
providers including the internet and banking industries and with peak
disability and older persons’ groups including Blind Citizens
Australia, the Physical Disability Coalition of Australia and aged
A major outcome of both the report and
the process of consultation will be the establishment of a Working Group
to review the Inquiry’s recommendations and to consider ways in which
issues can be addressed constructively on a community-wide basis.
The working group will include
representatives of peak disability and aged person’s organisations,
financial services and internet providers as well as retailers and
property owners. The Commission will be recommending to government that
relevant government departments and agencies become involved in the
The Commission welcomes this
community-wide approach initiated in part by the Australian Bankers’
Association which has already set up its own internal working group to
further progress these issues.
The Commission is also pleased to
report that the Internet Industry Association plans to run an awareness
campaign among members to promote better access to web-sites and
Media contact: Janine MacDonald on (02) 9284 9880
or 0412 783 631.
Copies of the report are available at http://www.hreoc.gov.au/disability_rights/ecomrep.htm