About us

OZeWAI is an association of volunteers working to make the information world more inclusive. It was the first such organisation in Australia and has been a leading initiative in the field for more than 20 years. Many international and high-profile experts have contributed to OZeWAI activities. OZeWAI has introduced many developers and managers to the need for accessibility, the means by which it can be promoted, and a supportive network of concerned practitioners.

OZeWAI, like a number of other organisations world-wide, is aware of the difficulty of making all devices, services and content fully inclusive. Accessibility benefits an estimated 20% of the population who, without some accommodations, cannot participate in the digital world. There are document standards, device standards and more but without suitable practices in place, the levels of accessibility are often disappointing and many are unable to participate.

In 2018, OZeWAI is working with partners to ask the fundamental question: “What should we do to be more inclusive?” It is expected that the answer will be multi-faceted - not every situation, service, or object needs the same procedures and many vary according to their context and who is trying to use them. Volunteer experts working with W3C, ISO/IEC JTC1, DDLS, OZeWAI and more are concerned that unless we can answer this question, we cannot expect things to change. Australian law does not yet provide a clear definition of accessibility that guides and protects everyone; the many specifications currently relied on do not provide ‘universal’ coverage as is assumed, despite the best efforts of many over the years; people shy away from the problem of being inclusive because it is often seen as ‘too hard’ or 'too expensive’, missing access to that 20% of their potential audience, and people with disabilities justifiably feel alienated and disadvantaged.

History

Web accessibility was first considered when OZeWAI started with a couple of presentations to interested participants in the early 1990’s.

At that time, many people were learning to make webpages using HTML and the Sunrise Research Laboratory provided a course online for free. It was designed to teach good principles and to help ensure that Web pages were accessible. It was used by developers and particularly universities around the world. This work grew into a set of activities including what was called a 'hyperlecture' because it was an hour long lecture that had so many hyperlinks it could form the base for a semester's work on accessibility. This was especially useful because a teacher could provide students with work even if she herself did not yet know much about accessibility.

The Sunrise Research Laboratory also published a CD that was designed for schools. Then, most schools did not yet have access to Internet and many were worried about what children might access if they did. The OZeWAI CD was full of 'safe' sites and had, in fact, 192,000 items from the Web. These resources were all sourced with permission (and form an interesting archive of the Web at that time). It was known as the OZeKIDS CD - hence the name of OZeWAI :-) The CD has been lodged in the National Library of Australia.

W3C, the World Wide Web Consortium worked on how to ensure the Web was able to be accessible to all, and Liddy Nevile, Sunrise Director, and others were soon involved in this work. Charles Nevile later went to W3C and worked specifically on accessibility in the WAI Team before moving on to other W3C activities in Europe.

In the early days, the Sunrise team convened an annual get-together of people interested in accessibility. This was known as the OZeWAI Conference and was held at the end of many years at La Trobe University. The Conference is now organised by the OZeWAI Committee. It has been attended by a keen bunch of participants and each year there have been interesting contributions from international players in the field of accessibility. All resources from these conferences are available online.

OZeWAI now has a formal structure, and will continue its work under the guidance of a committee and members working according to its constitution.

 

 

Additional information