Brutal funding cuts no Christmas cheer for social services bodies

THE AUSTRALIAN (Newspaper) DECEMBER 22, 2014 7:53PM
Source: News Limited
Rick Morton – Social Affairs Reporter – Sydney
Rick Morton on Google Plus

Cruel Christmas for social services

Blind Citizens Australia national president Greg Madson: ‘Some can survive on other funding sources but many will have to close down.

The peak bodies for the disability, homelessness and community sectors were told which ones would lose funding just days before Christmas in an announcement from the Department of Social Services late this afternoon.

The budget-saving measure aims to haul back tens of millions of dollars by streamlining the number of representative bodies in the two sectors.

In the disability arena most condition-specific bodies like Blind Citizens Australia — which lost $190,000 — and two deaf groups, the Disability Advocacy Network Australia and Brain Injury Australia all had their funding revoked.

People with Disability Australia, First Peoples Disability Network, Children with Disability Australia and some other “cross-disability” organisations won funding.

Community Housing Federation Australia, National Shelter and Homelessness Australia also lost funding as part of a $21 million cut to the sector.

The new regime is part of the Department’s “A New Way of Working” grants process but the cuts came at the request of political masters looking for budget savings.

One source within the government said it was known the cuts would have to be “brutal”.

Some of the funding losses came only as a result of decisions taken for the most recent Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook update last week. Organisations were told only via phone call and told to keep the conversation confidential. They have still not received formal letters acknowledging the decision.

Blind Citizens Australia national president Greg Madson said peak body organisations would collapse.

“Some can survive on other funding sources but many will have to close down,” he said.

“It’s not a very nice realisation. We knew something was coming but we didn’t know it would look like this.”

Carol Croce, Executive Director of the Community Housing Federation Australia, said she was “profoundly disappointed”. The organisation’s funding was not only cut but its contract was severed one year in advance, stopping in June next year instead of 2016.

“We are profoundly disappointed at this decision,” she said.

“I just don’t understand how the government plans on continuing its discussions in these sectors when they are taking away the mechanisms to have those discussions about the future.”

The Australian Federation of Disability Organisations, which hoped to survive as a consortium for all condition-specific representative bodies also lost its funding.

The National Information Centre on Retirement Investments was also axed.

Greens spokeswoman on family and community services Rachel Siewert said the cuts delivered uncertainty.

“We’ve known that cuts were coming, but for organisations to hear the news that their funding has been cut just days before Christmas is very cruel,” she said.

“This inflicts maximum chaos and undermines the sector’s advocacy on behalf of vulnerable Australians.

“With a new Minister on the way, it is vital that organisations can engage on behalf of their stakeholders, but these cuts will make that impossible.”

The Department has been approached for comment.

Next steps for web accessibility in Australia

Monday, 8 December 2014

The inclusion of accessibility in a digital design guide and a second NTS progress survey are just two of the next steps in Australian government web accessibility announced at the 2014 OZeWAI conference.

In the conference’s opening keynote address, Jacqui van Teulingen, Director Web Policy at the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) said that the government was “still on the journey” toward web accessibility and that web accessibility will continue to be required by default. Ms Teulingen also hinted that certain content in the future may not be published if it’s considered to be inaccessible.

It was also announced that an ongoing commitment to accessibility will be included in the soon-to-be-released Digital Design Guide, announced in the Coalition’s Policy for E-Government and the Digital Economy prior to winning the last federal election.

Under service standards to be included, websites must have an accessible design, and have the needs of users placed first with focus being placed on an ‘any device, any time’ requirement. Conformance to the Web Content Accessibility Guides (WCAG 2.0) will be considered a pre-requisite of achieving accessibility by default.

A ‘digital by default’ approach is expected to be enforced by the end of 2017, which under Coalition policy announced last year will require any government interaction that occurs more than 50,000 times a year to be able to be completed online.

The design guide will replace the soon-to-lapse National Transition Strategy which requires all government websites to achieve WCAG 2.0 AA compliance by the end of 2014. Government agencies are currently implementing accessibility changes ahead of the deadline, and from next week, agencies will be expected to report on whether they have achieved the mandatory requirements of the strategy.

It is expected that while complete conformance will not have been achieved, there will be significant improvement on results released at the end of December 2013 where only 26 percent of websites were reported to meet any level of WCAG 2.0.

GovCMS , which will be available to all levels of Government from February, is expected to assist in improvement and sustaining of accessibility for government for both new website development, as well as for existing websites that will migrate across to the new platform.

Accessibility guidelines are applicable to the 130 government agencies that have developed 1,300 websites, around 900 of which are public facing. Public facing government websites are used by almost nine million people in Australia each year.

Microsoft Develops Navigation System for People with Vision Disabilities

Global Accessibility News

Microsoft Develops Navigation System for People with Vision Disabilities

Americas Nov 10, 2014

Microsoft has developed the prototype wearable device, with the help of the charity Guide Dogs UK and urban design firm Future Cities Catapult to launch a headset to help people who are blind or have low vision navigate around a city.

When the headset is paired with a Windows Phone, the application uses GPS and cloud based location alongside a network of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi signals placed along the route. After setting the route, the user will hear a continuous clicking noise designed to sound like it’s coming from a meter or two ahead, guiding him or her along the correct route.

The application will also provide information on shops, points of interest and additional journey details to help the user navigate.

Check out this video about the project

Source: Microsoft

HOYTS KIOSK IMPROVE ACCESSIBILITY

HOYTS KIOSK IMPROVE ACCESSIBILITY

Tuesday, 24 June 2014 Media Access Australia

Entertainment giant Hoyts has increased its number of DVD rental kiosks nationally, as well as improve the access information about the titles each kiosk holds.

Launched in 2009, Hoyts Kiosk offers new release movies to the general public via a vending machine (kiosk). Kiosks take payment via credit card and rentals can be kept for up to ten days. There is also the flexibility of reserving online through the Hoyts Kiosk website (link is external) to ensure your title is available, and returning rentals to any kiosk location.

When Media Access Australia first tested a kiosk in 2012, it was found that title accessibility information was not displayed on the kiosk screen. This meant that people requiring closed captioning or audio description to watch DVDs were unable to use the kiosks without prior knowledge of a title’s accessibility. This was reported to Hoyts at the time.

We are pleased to report that Hoyts Kiosk now includes audio description and closed caption information for each title, if available, on the title’s information screen.

DVD kiosks are a growing trend, often found in shopping centres and other central public gathering points. This trend is counteracting the closure of DVD rental stores but retaining disc rental as an option where streaming video may be too slow due to slow broadband.

Hoyts website:

www.hoytskiosk.com.au/

Media Access Australia Website:

www.mediaaccess.org.au/latest_news/cinema/hoyts-kiosk-improve-accessibility

Perils of parcel pick-up

Perils of parcel pick-up: removing barriers to access

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Produced by Bridget Cormack

To listen go to: Listen to story audio

Although the queues can be a pain, collecting a parcel from the post office is a relatively simple matter. Unless you are a person who is blind or vision impaired. The little card that the postie leaves in the letterbox has no tactile features to distinguish it from ordinary junk mail. So it’s often the case that people with vision impairment are unaware a parcel is waiting for them at the Post Office. In light of the Senate Inquiry in to the performance of Australia Post, disability advocates are calling for a redesign of the notice cards.

Featured in story
Disability Discrimination Commissioner Graeme Innes
Melbourne resident Kathryn Beaton
Blind Citizens Australia President Greg Madson

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