DDA Compliance Standards: A Comprehensive Guide to Digital Accessibility in Australia

This guide explains the fundamentals of compliance with the Australian Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) for digital accessibility. It covers the DDA’s legal requirements and the benefits of making digital content accessible to everyone. We'll briefly discuss the DDA's impact, its history, disabilities it supports, and some of the risks of non-compliance. You will also find practical tips for improving the accessibility of your website, web application or other web and electronic content: discover how to assess and align your digital platforms with DDA's WCAG-based standards.


Australia: Not Just a Country, It's a Way of Life

Australia is an expansive land, with vibrant cities dotted like dazzling jewels along the coastline, against a setting of vast and splendid landscapes. Australia’s endless stretches of golden beaches, the unmatched grandeurs of Uluru and the Australian Alps, and the rugged outback, with its red earth, blue sky, lush flora and diverse wildlife, make Oz, the Land Down Under, the only natural home to many fascinating species found nowhere else in the world, including that rare breed: Australians themselves. In spite of the staggering environmental and economic impact of the recent almost relentless consecutive bushfires, floods, and droughts, Australia is more resilient and resourceful than most: her people are her strength, and they know it. Australians have a proven track record of coming together to overcome challenges, and they are determined to build a better future.


Australia's friendliness and open atmosphere are evident in everyday interactions, from the cheerful greetings of strangers to the Aussie willingness to lend a helping hand. As Nicole Kidman once said, “Australia is not just a country, it's a way of life.” The uniquely Australian spirit of approachability and communal life is mirrored in every aspect of Australian society, from art and history to modern digital advancements. And, as the world becomes increasingly interconnected in so many ways, Australia's legendary conviviality weaves itself organically into the fabric of the global digital experience. This welcoming approach to life is reflected in Australia's stride towards accessibility, expressed in law as a commitment to adapting its modern landscapes, both material and digital. It is not unreasonable to hope that in the end, no barriers will remain in the land of Oz except the beautiful Great Barrier Reef.


graphic australian landscapes landmarks
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Australian Inclusivity, Then and Now 

Australia's spirit of openness and acceptance comes in part from Australia's history and culture, shaped by a rich tapestry of indigenous tradition and multicultural influences, underscore a hard-won understanding of the importance of open-mindedness and respect. The arrival of British convicts in 1788 marked the beginning of a new era in Australian history. These so-called criminals were in many cases the victims of injustice rather than fair punishment. Transported from Britain for a variety of crimes and misdemeanors, this mass influx of convicts had a profound impact on the development of Australian culture. They shaped it in a number of ways, including the concept of “mateship” with its inherent bonds of loyalty and friendship, and a deep sense of equality for all. Indigenous inhabitants of Australia, have not always fared so well as demographics changed. However, Australia has made significant strides in addressing its past. Now home to people from over 200 countries, Australia is, in part, a nation of immigrants, with people who have come from all corners of the globe. There is a strong feeling of national identity that embraces the distinctly diverse population. Today, government policies as well as a wide range of community organizations work to promote social cohesion and understanding between different cultures.

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A reinforced commitment to diversity and inclusion has helped to create a more intentionally accommodating environment for all Australians. These efforts have also contributed towards the development of adaptive policies and programs. The Australian Disability Discrimination Act 1992 prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability, and there are several government programs that support and serve people with disabilities.


In addition to formal policies and programs, there has also been a growing public awareness of the importance of disability inclusion, with positive portrayals of disability in the media, and a rise in grassroots disability activism, which has helped challenge stereotypes and promote understanding. As a result of these efforts, Australia has become a more accessible and equitable society for people with disabilities. People with disabilities are now more likely to be employed, to participate in social activities, and to have access to education and healthcare. There is still more work to be done, but Australia is on the right track to creating a society where everyone is valued and respected.

group of diverse australians conversing

An Accessibility Journey: The Impact of the DDA and Beyond

Accessibility in Australia has undergone a significant transformation since the early 20th century, evolving from a largely segregated approach to one that emphasizes inclusion and equal opportunities. The 1970s marked a turning point with the rise of the disability rights movement. This movement advocated for the social model of disability, which views disability as a result of societal barriers rather than individual limitations.


This pivotal shift in perspective led to significant legislative reforms, including the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) of 1992. The DDA has been instrumental in promoting accessibility in Australia, leading to improvements in physical environments, transportation, communication, and technology. In recent years, the focus has headlined digital as well as in-person accessibility, with the goal of full and equal access to information and services, online and off.



What’s This Initiative?

How Does It Help?

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In 1992, the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) was enacted.

The DDA prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities including in employment, education, and access to public places and services.

The passing of the DDA led to increased opportunities for people with disabilities in all aspects of Australian life.

The National Transition Strategy for Information and Communication Technologies was released in 2001.

The National Transition Strategy for ICT outlines a framework for improving digital accessibility for people with disabilities.

This transitional strategy for ICT increased awareness of the importance of digital accessibility and led to the development of accessibility standards and guidelines.

In 2006, the AHRC (Australian Human Rights Commission) released the Disability Discrimination Act Advisory Notes: World Wide Web Access.

The DDA Advisory Notes: World Wide Web Access gives guidance on how to make websites accessible to people with disabilities.

The DDA Advisory Notes on web access improved website accessibility for people with disabilities and set the standard for web accessibility in Australia.

The WCAG 2.0 update was released by the W3C in 2012. While not the first guidelines of their kind, this was a significant update.

The WCAG are international, nongovernmental guidelines detailing how to optimize and correct web content, design, & coding for accessibility.

The WCAG 2.0 was adopted by the AHRC as the standard for web accessibility in Australia, to keep consistent with international standards.

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The AHRC released the Disability Discrimination Act Advisory Notes: Web Accessibility in Employment in 2014.

The DDA Advisory Notes: Web Accessibility in Employment offers guidance on how to make employment websites and online recruitment processes accessible.

The DDA Advisory Notes on web access for employment improved accessibility for employment sites and online recruitment processes, equalizing career opportunities.

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In 2018, the Australian Government released the Digital Accessibility Strategy 2018-2022.

The Digital Accessibility Strategy 2018-2022 was a timed plan to improve digital accessibility for all Australians.

The DAS 2018-22 increased focus on digital accessibility and led to the development of new accessibility initiatives, like the AGI.

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In 2022, the AHRC released the Disability Standards for Education 2022.

The DSE 2022 are requirements for schools and other education providers to make their websites and online materials accessible.

The DSE 2022 improved the accessibility of education websites and online materials, mandating equal access to education.

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In 2023, the Australian Government released the Accessibility Guidelines for Infrastructure.

The AGI impart guidance on how to design and construct accessible infrastructure, including buildings, transport, and public spaces.

The AGI improved the accessibility of infrastructure for people with disabilities, continuing the steady progress towards fully equal access to public spaces and services for all Australians.

DDA Compliance: A Digital Directive

The essential purpose of the Disability Discrimination Act, and DDA compliance, is to eliminate barriers that hinder people with disabilities from accessing digital information, services, and opportunities. This means creating and updating websites, apps, and other electronic platforms so that they are usable for everyone. We all have the right to participate fully and equally in the online and virtual dimensions, as much as in the face-to-face part of our daily lives.


Disabilities Recognized Under the DDA

Disability can be temporary or permanent, depending on the underlying cause. Temporary conditions, such as a broken bone or a pregnancy, are expected to heal or resolve within a limited period of time. Permanent disabilities, such as blindness or cerebral palsy, are typically lifelong conditions that cannot be cured or reversed. And, if we are lucky enough to make it to old age, the risk of developing both temporary and permanent disabilities increases due to factors such as the natural decline of the body's systems, the accumulation of chronic health conditions, and an increased risk of accidents and falls.


While this is not an exhaustive list and there may be other conditions included under the Disability Discrimination Act, the chart below can help you understand more about disability categories and what falls into each one.

array of icons representing different types of disabilities


Disability Category


Examples of Conditions


Impairment of physical bodily function, mobility, dexterity or coordination

Amputation, arthritis, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, spinal cord injuries, vision impairments, hearing impairments


Significant impairment of intellectual functioning

Down syndrome, autism spectrum disorder, learning disabilities


Related to the perceptory senses: impairment of sight, hearing or balance

Blindness, low vision, deafness, hard of hearing, vestibular disorders


Impairment of the nervous system

Epilepsy, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's disease


Difficulties in mental health or psychological functioning

Anxiety disorders, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia


Specific difficulty with academic or everyday learning skills

Dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)


Any other impairment that has a substantial effect on a person's ability to participate in society

Chronic pain, cancer, autoimmune diseases

The Weight of Accessibility in DDA Compliance

Accessibility is at the heart of DDA compliance, and disregarding it can have serious repercussions. Failing to comply with DDA regulations for either physical or digital environments not only alienates a significant portion of the population but also exposes businesses to legal risks, including lawsuits and fines.

Failure to comply with DDA accessibility standards can lead to significant consequences, including:


  • Legal Action

Individuals can file complaints with the Australian Human Rights Commission if they experience discrimination due to inaccessible digital content or services.

  • Financial Penalties

The DDA allows for financial penalties for non-compliant businesses and organizations.

  • Reputational Damage

Negative publicity surrounding accessibility issues can severely damage an organization's reputation and brand image.


Accessibility is a legal requirement under the DDA. Aside from any personal calculations as to whether and how noncompliance could negatively impact your organization, DDA compliance is also a larger matter of social responsibility and ethical business practice. By creating inclusive digital experiences, businesses and organizations can tap into a broader audience and better their brand reputation. Most importantly, they will be contributing to a more equal, more inclusive way of living for the general Australian public and beyond.


Levels of DDA Compliance

DDA compliance can be loosely stratified into several tiers, each corresponding to different degrees of accessibility, ranging from basic adjustments to more advanced adaptations for wider usability.


The DDA itself does not specify levels of compliance, but it does outline general principles and guidelines. Because the DDA’s prerequisites are based on the WCAG accessibility guidelines, we also consider understanding the requirements for WCAG accessibility levels to be a part of DDA compliance. It is also critical to test and monitor so that you know how comprehensively your digital content complies with its conditions, or if it does not comply.

Level A is the minimum level. Level AA includes all Level A and AA requirements. Many organizations strive to meet Level AA. Level AAA includes all Level A, AA, and AAA requirements.

We may add that in most accessibility professional opinions, triple-A WCAG is nearly impossible to achieve, and the majority of accessibility laws around the world require AA at most.


In the DDA 2014 Advisory Notes from the AHRC, government and private sector websites were already required to be in conformance with the then-current WCAG 2.0 at double-A level, minimum. As it’s been just under 10 years and several WCAG updates since then, we can confidently suggest that any Australian organization’s best bet is to read up on the most up-to-date standards information from WCAG, and build their digital materials based on that and the POUR Principles. While WCAG now stands at 2.2, and most laws will not yet include its newest stipulations, it’s a good idea to think ahead and include them now if possible. As mentioned in ADCET, the nine WCAG success criteria just added for 2.2 point to solutions for technologies and functionality that were not yet available, or not much used, at the time of the WCAG 2.1 release in 2018. One such recently popular function is multi-factor authentication.


Businesses and organizations are expected to take reasonable steps to make their digital content and services accessible to people with disabilities. There are many available accessibility solutions from companies in Australia and elsewhere. If it’s in budget, it’s recommended that you get a full accessibility audit for your organization. Most software solutions such as accessibility widgets, plugins and overlays will be affordable, and may be helpful boosts to your accessibility, although they may not offer full compliance.

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The Price of Non-Compliance

Ignoring DDA and other accessibility law compliance can lead to real-world challenges, including legal action. In Australia, there have been several instances where organizations faced lawsuits and financial penalties for failing to make their websites accessible.


2014: Mesnage v. Cole

One such occurrence was the groundbreaking Mesnage v. Coles case. Gisele Mesnage, a blind person, filed suit against Coles, the supermarket giant. Her claim was that she could not shop on the company’s site using her screen reader.


In an interview with Australia’s ABC News, Gisele Mesnage said: “Just from a practical point of view it's a lot easier for me to shop online than struggle in a physical store. I can see the prices when I'm online, I can see all the new products, I can put in the trolley exactly what I want. So for me online shopping is an essential service.”


Most people would agree that grocery shopping is a basic part of their lives, and it seems clear that online ordering would be simpler for people with visual impairments, as long as the grocery website was accessible. But, according to Mesnage, it was not. She said, “…in September 2013, Coles launched a new upgrade of the website and since then it's been extremely difficult for me to create an order and lodge the order independently.” She expressed it as the very reasonable wish for herself and other customers to be “taken seriously as people with disabilities”.

blind person with a seeing dog
She also told reporters, “I don't want special consideration, just the same consideration of other customers.”

It makes me feel as if we're not important.” Mesnage told The Sydney Morning Herald. “Would they exclude all their customers this way? It's unthinkable.

And with the philosophy of equity (PDF), that is perfectly logical. True accessibility should be about equity rather than equality. While equality can translate to “everyone gets the same thing”, such as a website, equity in access can be explained as “everyone gets the access they need from their angle, so they can get the same end result.” The equitable thing to do is to make sure that the website that “everyone” gets is truly accessible to everyone. Developing and designing both physical and digital environments should always be done with a clear perspective on how everyone can access these areas fairly, taking into account user circumstances, such as disability.


The Mesnage v. Cole case was settled out of court. It was the first such lawsuit to make it to the Australian Federal Circuit Court.


2000: Maguire v. SOCOG

In other Australian accessibility legislative news, Bruce Maguire, a user who is blind from birth, cited accessibility issues in the lawsuit he filed against the Sydney 2000 Olympics Organizing Committee (SOCOG). He told the court in a 2000 hearing that the committee’s website was missing alternative text for many images, and the tables used on the site with information about Olympic athletes was likewise inaccessible.


Although SOCOG attempted to defend themselves by claiming that accessibility improvements would cost them in the range of $2.2M AUD, and that this would be what’s known in legal terms as an unjustifiable hardship, the Australian Human Rights Committee ruled otherwise. The AHRC decided in favor of Maguire, and informed SOCOG that a failure to resolve their accessibility issues would result in Maguire being compensated.


And indeed, Maguire v. SOCOG was judged in favor of Maguire by the Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission. The plaintiff, Maguire, was awarded $20K AUD.


As a result of the Maguire v. SOCOG judgment, the W3C Guidelines were adopted by Australian governments. And, the Commonwealth Government mandated that all its agency websites must pass accessibility testing by December 1st of that year, 2000.

Who Needs to Step Up for DDA Compliance?

Per the DDA, online providers of information, goods and/or services must consider the accessibility of their websites and mobile device applications for people with disability, just as they must in the physical world. Every Australian sector, public and private, has a role to play in DDA compliance.

The responsibility for maintaining accessibility falls on all businesses and organizations that provide digital content or services to the public. This includes government agencies, educational institutions, commercial websites, and online retailers. Education, healthcare, and government service providers must be particularly vigilant due to their integral role in public welfare. Specific regulations within the DDA may be more relevant to particular industries or sectors.


Is Your Digital Presence DDA Compliant?

Assessing your website for DDA and WCAG compliance is a must. Fortunately, there are tools and resources available that can guide businesses through the evaluation process, paving the way toward full accessibility.

If you are qualified and able to do an evaluation of your website or other digital content by yourself, you should do so. Aside from any evaluation you may do on your own, we also suggest that you utilize accessibility testing tools, both fully automated and human-operated. If you can manage to do so, it is by far the wisest choice to consult with accessibility experts.

Post testing, with a clearer understanding of the nature of the identified issues and their potential impact on users, you’ll be able to fix the accessibility problems, or hire someone to put the suggested solutions into action.


What Can I Do To Improve My Accessibility Compliance?

When you’ve completed your assessment of your digital content, you are likely to notice a large gap between where your accessibility is now, and where it needs to be. Here are some helpful tips to assist you in remedying that.


Planning, Preparing, & Updating Your Web & Digital Content

Start early on in your planning and preparation process for the best accessibility results. This will also improve your use of time and talent resources.


  • Designing & Developing for DDA & WCAG Compliance:

Optimizing Website Navigation and Functionality for Accessibility:

Accessibility Support and Testing:

The Road Ahead: Digital Accessibility & Inclusion

Australia's charm extends far beyond picturesque landscapes and iconic landmarks. The country's ethos of generous camaraderie is evident in its communal embrace of diversity and celebration of the rich tapestry of histories and cultures that shape its identity. This inclusive attitude is reflected in the nation's commitment to accessibility, demonstrating that Australia not only values its natural wonders and cultural heritage but also prioritizes the creation of spaces where everyone can participate fully in society. The move towards accessible digital spaces is a testament to Australia's progressive outlook, opening up the digital era's opportunities until they are as boundless as the country's vast horizons.


Since its inception, the DDA has been a beacon of change in Australia, guiding the nation towards inclusivity. Its ripple effects have been felt not only within Australia but also referenced by neighbors like New Zealand, which looks to the DDA as a benchmark for its own accessibility regulations, and countries farther afield, such as . The act’s influence has been far-reaching, from improving public infrastructure to recalibrating websites to meet the needs of all users.

Facing the future, we have no way of knowing what eventualities may arise. What we do know is what we can fix now, and we can commit to good purposes as we move forward. Our determination to build and expand digital accessibility must intensify. Acknowledging the necessity of DDA compliance is the first step toward cultivating an inclusive digital ecosystem in Australia and beyond. Let’s work together to create digital spaces where everyone has equal and equitable access and opportunity.


DDA compliance refers to adherence to the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA) of Australia, which aims to protect individuals from discrimination based on disability. In the context of digital accessibility, it means making websites and digital platforms usable for people with a range of disabilities.

DDA compliance is crucial for creating an inclusive digital world where everyone can participate fully and equally. The DDA requires that digital platforms be made and kept accessible to all users, regardless of their abilities. Compliance fosters an adaptive, accepting environment; it also promotes social responsibility and ethical business practices.

The DDA supports a wide range of disabilities, including but not limited to visual, auditory, physical, cognitive, neurological, and speech impairments.

Yes, organizations can face legal action, including lawsuits and financial penalties, if any of their digital platforms, products and properties are found to be non-compliant with the DDA.

The levels of DDA compliance align with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). WCAG compliance levels range from A (the minimum level of compliance) to AA (acceptable compliance) to AAA (the highest level of compliance).

While all sectors should comply, industries such as education, healthcare, and government services have a heightened responsibility due to their significant public impact.

You can use various tools and services that audit your website against the WCAG guidelines. These tools can help identify areas where your website may fall short of compliance standards.

No, DDA compliance is relevant to all sizes and types of organizations that provide services or information online. However, the resources available and the extent of required adjustments may vary depending on the size and type of the organization.

Regular audits are recommended, as websites are frequently updated with new content and features. Quarterly reviews are a common practice, but more frequent checks can be beneficial, especially when significant changes are made to a digital platform.

The Australian Human Rights Commission helps to oversee the implementation of the DDA, provides guidelines for compliance, and can conduct inquiries into complaints about discrimination in digital access.

Improved brand reputation and customer loyalty, increased accessibility for a broader audience, and reduced risk of legal action and financial penalties.

Non-compliance with DDA can lead to various consequences, including legal action by individuals who experience discrimination due to inaccessible digital content or services, financial penalties imposed by the Australian Human Rights Commission, as well as reputational damage and loss of customer trust.

Individuals can play a significant role in promoting DDA compliance by raising awareness about accessibility issues and the importance of DDA compliance, providing feedback to businesses and organizations on the accessibility of their digital content and services, and supporting organizations that advocate for disability rights and accessibility.

The National Australia Bank (NAB) has been recognized for its commitment to digital accessibility, and its website is one of the most accessible in Australia.

Many businesses and organizations are not aware of the importance of digital accessibility or the legal requirements that apply to them. Making digital content accessible can also be expensive, and some businesses and organizations may be reluctant to invest in the necessary changes. In addition, there is a shortage of accessibility experts in both Australia and New Zealand, which can make it difficult for businesses and organizations to find the help they need.

To maintain digital accessibility, businesses and organizations should implement ongoing practices, such as integrating accessibility into the early stages of design and development, so that good accessibility is embedded throughout the lifecycle. It’s also critical to define clear accessibility policies that outline goals, responsibilities, and procedures for maintaining accessibility standards. It’s also important to schedule regular accessibility audits to identify and address emerging accessibility issues and maintain compliance. And, don’t forget to engage users with disabilities throughout the testing process to gather feedback and confirm that the accessibility solutions meet their needs.

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