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New Partnership Launched to Make Digital Public Services Accessible

January 31, 2020

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington has entered into a partnership agreement with the Department of Internal Affairs in a bid to help make digital public services in New Zealand accessible to everyone, via a new study course.

Inclusive design is a key goal of the government’s new Digital Service Design Standards, and the new micro-credential, Introduction to digital accessibility: Delivering inclusive digital content, was developed for digital practitioners and leaders in the public, private and education sectors in close consultation with a number of national disabled people’s organisations.

“It’s a great opportunity to help create a standard of accessibility for the entire country, and developing this course with DIA and key disability organisations means we are offering a uniquely relevant course,” says Dr Gillian McCarthy from the university’s School of Design Innovation. McCarthy is one of three University staff members teaching the course, with contributions from DIA accessibility experts.

“Web accessibility is about inclusiveness and a way to ensure no one is excluded. Having an accessible website actually provides a better user experience for everyone, not just people with disabilities," she says.

Offered through the university’s Centre for Lifelong Learning, the six-week micro-credential includes a focus on barriers to digital accessibility, cultural perspectives on accessibility, and how to create digital content that meets the New Zealand Government Web Accessibility Standard. This is based on internationally recognised accessibility requirements.

“We are excited to be partnering with Victoria University of Wellington to co-design this micro-credential. It was a natural fit: their education expertise plus our Web Standards knowledge equals an overview course that will reach a wider audience and be of great benefit,” adds Ann-Marie Cavanagh, deputy government chief digital officer and DCE Digital Public Service branch, DIA.

“This course will give people the tools to understand and improve digital accessibility, whatever sector they’re in.”

Micro-credentials are certified courses, usually short, that recognise the achievement of a defined set of skills and knowledge in a specific area.

Starting on 17 February, 2020, the course on creating accessible digital content is the third micro-credential the University has produced, and more professional development courses are planned.

The purpose of the government's Digital Service Design Standard is to provide the design thinking for anyone who designs or provides government services. It supports the government to provide public services that are easily accessible, integrated, inclusive and trusted by all New Zealanders.

"As a sector, the whole of government should move away from siloed and agency-centric services with low-user community input, to more open, inclusive and co-designed services," the government's web page states.

"These principles form the foundation of New Zealand Government’s shift to becoming more responsive, open, citizen-centric and user-focused."

Source: Net Guide