Australian Lefty on Politics, Governance, Science and Info Management

Tas Anti-Discrimination Commissioner hypocrisy

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-01-20

Who’d have thought that the Tasmanian Office of the Anti-Discrimination Commissioner would act in such a way that folk with very poor or no vision are disadvantaged… especially when writing to a Senate inquiry about changes to federal anti-discrimination legislation?  That is exactly what has happened.

And not only the disabled are disadvantaged, but also people with perfect sight who want to use the words from that submission when pushing for better treatment of those who aredisabled.


"Blind-Browsers" convert text into sound using voice synthesizers, or drive a "Braille Mouse".  With bitmapped input, they are useless, just as you cannot cut-and-paste text from a bitmapped image into your word-processor.

PDF files can contain a mix of bit-mapped and text/vector information, but the bit-mapped parts cannot be treated as text, and therefore cannot be used by "Blind Browsers".  Bit-mapped (or "raster") PDFs are simply inaccessible.

Even provision of high quality vector-based PDFs, without provision of other more accessible versions (such as HTML), is frowned upon by the federal human rights commissioner so much that in the "WebWatch" initiative, you’ll see a developing "name-and-shame" list of government agencies that make life difficult by only providing PDFs of important documents, even though there are programs to convert these reasonably successfully to HTML, text, and synthesized voice.

The Offence

The Tasmanian Office of the Anti-Discrimination Commissioner has gone much further… ensured that the only version the public can get is one that cannot be turned into accessible formats.  Just try and cut/paste text from the that office’s submission to most of the other submissions and you’ll see what I mean.

Why didn’t the Taswegians simply email in their document, given that email transmission has the same legal weight as a fax, and even more weight if it is digitally signed, something you cannot do with a fax?

If they had simply sent in a plain text email, it would have been less trouble to everyone.

I was tempted to cut and paste the email address of the person at the Taswegian Discrimination Commission into my email program…. but that, of course, was impossible.


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