Chair's Report for 2020

OZeWAI is an incredible organisation that offers a very successful conference each year, and has done so for more than 20 years now. OZeWAI also supports people who work in a wide range of roles concerned with accessibility.

To have been really successful, OZeWAI needs to have reached ‘industry strength”. Many people know that is clearly where the participants are now - internationally engaged in developing technologies, standards and specifications, policies and laws, and offering general education and promotion of accessibility. And the industry is also offering events and a major conference. 

Now OZeWAI is working towards moving more into support of the people engaged in the accessibility activities rather than trying to do the activities itself.

The Committee has adopted the IAAC examinations as setting a convenient, well-recognised standard for some aspects of the work we do. Other criteria might need to be developed in the future to support research and development work, and more. As a professional association, OZeWAI needs to be able to clearly identify its members, offer them resources that are pertinent to their interests, and identify for those seeking help, a way of finding an appropriate person to contact.

There has been a little work in Australian universities in terms of courses and coverage of accessibility for students. Clearly, however, the people working in universities to support students and staff with disabilities are achieving a lot. OZeWAI would benefit from, and perhaps could help provide, Australian specific content for students who will be responsible for accessibility in the future. This is important and should not be confused with the teaching/learning of techniques and such things that are, in fact, globally applicable, and for which there is probably good enough online learning resources. OZeWAI would benefit from identifying people who are qualified and suitable and available to help with developing courses. Perhaps OZeWAI needs a research/academic co-ordinator?.

People who are discriminated against do not always know what is possible for them. Content, service and device providers may have complied with some set of specifications but that is not the question that is asked when someone has a problem. The question for them ultimately comes from the law and in Australia the relevant law is not explicit about what should have been done technically but whether there was sufficient effort to accommodate the person’s needs. There seems to be a need to simplify the process of determining what questions should be asked and this is a field of work that could be undertaken by OZeWAI. This would, of course, be best done in collaboration with others such as lawyers who can understand the weird way discrimination is handled in Australia. Defining projects such as this, gaining funding for the work, and bringing together appropriate people to work on a project, is a typical professional association activity. It might be good if OZeWAI had a grant/project co-ordinator?

These questions raise other questions such as what support OZeWAI might need to undertake this work, and from where can financial support be sought. The questions have led the Committee to think about reviewing and up-dating the OZeWAI constitution, a process starting immediately. This includes re-definition of members, professional roles, and more. Participation in this work will be welcomed from anyone interested with time to help.

Finally, I would like to thank the incredible OZeWAI ‘behind-the-scenes’ heroes. The Committee grows according to necessity, it seems. Some people have been working after hours on newsletters, some on the Conference, and still others on other administrative tasks. They are wonderful, usually very quiet, and there is a special sense of cooperation.

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