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Australia's 2021 Census to Be Accessible to Persons with Disabilities

August 02, 2021

This year's national census will be the most inclusive and accessible survey yet, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

The rollout of a raft of assistive technologies on the census website promise to provide extra support and resources for people who are deaf or vision-impaired and would like to submit their forms online without having to seek additional help.

“The whole idea of the census is to make it as easy as possible to complete and make it as less of a burden,” ABS operations manager David Keys said.

“There’ll be a braille and large print form available for the vision-impaired community and there’s also the closed captions available for our deaf community.”

Melbourne man Chris Edwards is blind and an advocate for the blind and vision-impaired community.

He said while millions of people in Australia are taking advantage of the flexibility of online platforms, it was more difficult for others who were vision-impaired because there simply weren’t enough resources to cater for their needs.

“Accessible information is so important for people with low vision and when it doesn’t happen it’s so frustrating and it’s tiring because it feels like you don’t have a voice,” he said.

Having advised the ABS on the 2021 Census rollout, Mr Edwards said the ABS had done an “amazing job” and users would have a far better experience filling out the survey compared to the last census five years ago.

“Some of the key features that make it easier for people who are blind like me is having information in large print.”

“By ensuring all their formats are accessible means that me and other people who are blind and low vision can participate just like everybody else,” he said.

The website upgrade also allows users to listen to the census questions and click on audio files that provide further explanation and guidance. For those who prefer a hard copy of the document, they can order a braille or large print copy via the website or an automated phone service.

The ABS upgrades to the 2021 Census website have earned it an AA rating with the World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.

Gavin Balharrie is deaf and president of service provider for the deaf Expression Australia.

He described the system as “world-class” and said it had raised the standard for organisations and how they cater for people’s needs.

Deaf and hard of hearing people who want to participate in the national survey online will now have more than 60 videos featuring instructions using Australian Sign Language.

Signing his response to a question about what made the census website so special, Mr Balharrie said the inclusion of Auslan was critical. He said many websites had closed captioned language options but not everyone in the community could understand them.

“I really applaud the Australian Bureau of Statistics for improving the census this year and acknowledging that Auslan is the primary language for most deaf people in Australia and that’s really the only language that some of our members do understand,” he said.

“It is really important to focus more widely on providing that access so our community have access to resources and access to content so that they can answer accurately.”

Major health and disability service providers such as Vision Australia will rely heavily on the data gathered from this year’s census to determine how best to allocate their services in the future.

“Over the next decade we think there’s going to be massive growth in the number of people that will need our services," Vision Australia CEO Ron Hooton said.

“It tells us about the instances of disability how many people are blind or have low vision and where they are in Australia.”

Vision Australia said that while there were 384,000 blind or low vision Australians registered at the time of the last census in 2016, it predicts that by 2030 that figure will grow to more than half a million.

“We refer to the census all the time in terms of where we place our staff, what particular occupation group we put in which particular area. It's really important for us”

People across Australia are encouraged to check their letterboxes for instructions from the ABS on how to complete the census.

Residents can begin filling in their forms prior to Census night on 10 August. The last day to complete the form is 12 August and after that, the ABS will contact people directly to help them with it.

More information about the 2021 Census is available at

Source: SBS News

Related Information

Australia National Census