With 18% of the Australian population living with some form of a disability, eliminating barriers to website accessibility remains a challenge. In this blog, AusRegistry’s Maggie Whitnall explores this important topic with the support of Gunela Astbrink from the Internet Society of Australia.
By Maggie Whitnall
Tuesday 3 December 2013
Today marks an important day in the calendar for people living with a disability, their families and carers.
International Day of People with Disability (IDPwD) is celebrated each year on 3rd December as a United Nations sanctioned day aimed at increasing public awareness, understanding and acceptance of people with a disability, while also encouraging greater inclusion and accessibility.
In recognition of this day, I thought it was timely to pose the following question: What can Australia’s domain name and website hosting industries do to support equal web access for all?
Around the world, people with a disability face physical, social, economic and attitudinal barriers that exclude them from participating fully and effectively as equal members of society.
Unfortunately, these barriers are also prevalent within our own industry and the topic of website accessibility is an issue that affects the lives of many people living with a disability.
The scale and importance of this issue was best articulated to me by Gunela Astbrink, a vocal advocate for the rights of people with a disability and a Director of the Internet Society of Australia. Ms Astbrink was an ambassador for the recently held Australian Internet Governance Forum (auIGF) where she led a panel discussion on the accessibility of online services.
Access to information and communication technologies creates opportunities to everyone in society, but perhaps no-more so than for people with a disability. As the Australian Human Rights Commission notes, companies need to actively think about this issue because they have an obligation to remove discrimination and promote equal participation.
Despite advances in recent times – especially with the Australian Government mandating the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 for all government websites – many people with a disability remain unable to take full advantage of the Internet due to poor website accessibility.
Following auIGF, I sat down with Ms Astbrink to discuss website accessibility.
“I am delighted that AusRegistry is spreading awareness in the sector. Thank you for taking this initiative. Designing for accessibility means designing for the whole community. Websites can be exciting and accessible. In fact, innovative, intuitive and adaptive websites can go hand in hand with accessibility,” Ms Astbrink said.
“Embedding accessibility in your communications policy and creating awareness among your marketing, content development and technical teams means that accessibility isn’t compromised when a site is updated or redesigned.”
The business case
Making information technologies available to people with a disability is not only a matter of basic human rights, it also makes good business sense.
Incredibly, the UN estimate more than one billion people around the world live with some form of disability. Locally, Ms Astbrink told me the Australian Bureau of Statistics say over 18% of the population report they have a disability.
In terms of direct relevance to website accessibility, Ms Astbrink explains that this is difficult to estimate. Common conditions such as colour blindness affects 10% of the population but may not be included in disability statistics. A person with a leg amputation would not be affected by web accessibility but someone with limited hand movement would be. There are some people who do not reveal their disability and therefore are not counted in disability statistics.
Clearly, there is a large online consumer base being overlooked. Any company would be foolish to neglect this group – both from an equity and commercial perspective.
Furthermore, the UN cite a recent British study which showed UK companies were forfeiting £80 billion in lost revenue with around three-quarters of company websites not achieving basic levels of accessibility.
This is not to mention the intuitive benefits that best-practice web accessibility design brings. According to Ms Astbrink, research suggests that accessible websites achieve higher SEO rankings than those that do not conform to web accessibility standards. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and WebAIM have both explored this topic in depth.
What can we do?
Obviously, our industry – particularly Registrars and website development companies – are uniquely positioned to be able to encourage and practice accessible web design within the community.
If we as an industry are able to create greater awareness about why website accessibility options are important, we might be able to make a small but positive impact on this issue.
Greater awareness is the first step. For instance, Ms Astbrink alerted me to the fact that the AusRegistry website could improve accessibility in a number of areas. Admittedly, without Ms Astbrink bringing this to my attention, we would not have known about these issues.
Most of the changes are all relatively straightforward and we are now in the process of addressing them (A big thanks to Ms Astbrink for raising this with me!).
See, that’s the crux of this issue. With greater awareness and understanding of website accessibility, I suspect most companies would be more than receptive to this important issue.
In an attempt to create greater awareness and encourage change, I asked Ms Astbrink to provide us with her top 10 tips for website accessibility. We’ll be encouraging our .au Accredited Registrars to be mindful of these tips for their own websites and those of their clients. Perhaps others will follow suit.
Gunela Astbrink’s top 10 website accessibility tips
(These tips are a good starting point. For full information, please go to W3C’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0.
SEO = search engines mainly index on text
SEO = used by search engines
SEO = search engines mainly index on text
SEO = equates to the action of a search engine bot
By Maggie Whitnall
Client Services Manager - .au
Melbourne, Australia - 19 November 2013: There are several options available to Australians who want to establish a presence on the Internet.
One of the easiest, most effective and authoritative methods is registering a domain name and hosting a website.
In Australia, the .au domain name is Australia's home on the Internet. But why do Australians choose .au for their online presence?
Last month, AusRegistry released the results of a survey of more than 10,000 Australians which sought to provide a baseline performance standard to profile .au domain name owners.
The survey found:
• Of the survey respondents who do own a domain name, 74% of Australians choose .au for their online presence, a reflection of the trust built into the namespace.
• A discrepancy exists in the uptake of domain names between genders, with males almost twice as likely to own a domain name compared to females.
• When it comes to age, 35 to 64 year-olds lead the way in domain name ownership, with more than a quarter of respondents in this age group owning a domain name.
• 84% of .au domain name owners say registering a domain name is an easy process.
Public Relations Manager
Ph: +61 3 9866 3710
Melbourne, Australia - 4 November 2013: AusRegistry today announced the availability of two new special offers to help Australian businesses get online and activate their Internet presence with an exclusive domain name and search advertising offer.
The campaign is designed to help Australian businesses succeed online and empower savvy business owners to take advantage of the significant ecommerce opportunities available.
Utilising Microsoft’s Bing search advertising network – with nearly 3 million search users in Australia – the campaign is offering business owners the following exclusive deal:
Special offer 1:
Register the .com.au and .net.au version of a domain name (with a participating Registrar) in the month of November and receive $100 in free performance-based search advertising, plus assisted set up when you spend $25 in your Bing Ads account.
Special offer 2:
Register either a .com.au or .net.au domain name (with a participating Registrar) in the month of November and receive $50 in free search advertising with Bing Ads.
George Pongas, General Manager of AusRegistry, said success online requires a multifaceted approach.
“We know small to medium businesses in Australia face major challenges in crafting a winning approach for their online strategy. Business owners need to recognise that a brilliant corporate website on its own will not be enough to generate the significant cut-through they are looking for online,” Mr Pongas said.
“A corporate website supported by a sound search advertising campaign will go a long way to helping any business establish a strong presence online. We’re thrilled to have AusRegistry utilise our extensive Bing search advertising network to empower local business online,” said Kevin Grobler, Director, Search Advertising APAC, Microsoft.
“Those business owners who take a well-rounded online approach that includes search marketing, a content strategy, customer engagement and social media will be the ones who achieve the most success,” Mr Pongas added.
He said a .au domain name should be at the very heart of any online strategy for Australian businesses.
“The .au domain name is synonymous with doing business online in Australia and your .au domain name should be the digital asset that underpins your business’ online identity. Your search advertising, marketing and online content should be directing customers back to your corporate website hosted under your .au domain name.”
Mr Pongas said recent research by AusRegistry showed only one in four Australians own a domain name.
“It’s a disappointing fact that many Australian businesses are missing out on the significant revenue potential the Internet offers by not owning a domain name or hosting a corporate website. Business owners would be wise to not only secure the .com.au and .net.au domain names for their business name, but also consider registering generic words related to their industry.”
Mr Pongas said generic domain names can hold immense revenue potential and noted that cruises.com.au recently sold $110,000.
“Our campaign with Microsoft is designed to give Australian businesses the basic elements needed to develop their online presence and grow their business.”
Please contact your .au accredited Registrar to claim this special offer.
Public Relations Manager
Ph: +61 3 9866 3710
Last week we were alerted to the existence of a number of websites maliciously posing as Australian online retailers in order to defraud unsuspecting shoppers out of thousands of dollars through the sale of non-existent mobile phones or other gadgets.
The con artists behind this scam set up websites by registering .com.au domain names using the stolen credentials of legitimate businesses.
Following an investigation by the Western Australia Department of Commerce and .au Domain Administration, the websites were taken down.
However, the damage had already been done and the trust built up in the .com.au domain name took a serious dent.
As the appointed technology operator for the Registry which runs .com.au, we were disappointed that this scam was able to occur. I understand the frustration the victims of this crime must feel and appreciate their desire to strengthen the regulations around website ownership.
The reason this issue cuts deep for me is that these scammers have exploited the trust we have worked so hard to build over so many years.
Why people trust .com.au
It’s likely that the con artists involved in this scam strategically chose to use .com.au domain names to perpetrate their crimes.
They – like many Australians – recognised the inherent trust Australian consumers place in our national online namespace when purchasing goods over the Internet.
Locally, .com.au is Australia’s home on the Internet because it’s a trusted, regulated and well-recognised corner of the web for all Australian businesses, organisations and individuals. This means that when people navigate the Internet and see a ‘nab.com.au’ advertisement for instance, they can be confident that they will be directed to the official National Australia Bank website.
I imagine that end users would be far less trusting in this instance of a domain name that ends in something other than .au (check out where nab.com takes you!).
This speaks volumes to the effective policy and regulation of the .au namespace, the level of awareness the namespace enjoys in the Australian market, and the willingness of businesses and end users to adopt .au as their online presence.
However, scams perpetrated under the guise of a legitimate .com.au website erodes this trust and justifiably causes Australians navigating the Internet to question whether they can still trust .com.au domain names.
To this point, I want to ensure Australian Internet users can retain trust in .com.au and feel confident to navigate the Internet under it.
Maintaining the trust in .com.au
The unfortunate reality is that there will always be people seeking to exploit the trust of others – especially in the faceless realms of online shopping.
While it’s no comfort to those who were victims of the current scam, it is reassuring to know that the scam websites were taken down quickly after they were investigated. You won’t find this type of responsiveness in most other namespaces.
There have been calls to increase the regulations around registering a .com.au domain. However, there is a fine balance between over-regulating the namespace as a knee-jerk reaction to an incident and maintaining efficient and streamlined processes that encourage domain name ownership.
My feeling is that the current policies which require registrants to match domain names to a company or business entity are sufficient. While the introduction of a 100-point identification check would immediately weed out any fraudsters, it would also significantly burden the administrative process of managing registrations and would necessitate a large price increase to facilitate this new process.
By doing this, you would disadvantage many thousands of small business owners and the majority of Australian Internet users. Importantly, honest businesses will move to other namespaces in an attempt to bypass barriers and reduce costs and in turn end users navigating the Internet become desensitised about not seeing the .au at the end of a domain name.
Ultimately this would play straight into the hands of fraudsters as Australian websites hosted on other Top-Level Domains will no longer have the ability to be taken down quickly by Australian authorities and regulators.
While this incident shows the current system is not perfect, I think it does demonstrate it’s robust enough to do the job it was intended for.
Tips for shopping online safely
To reduce your chances of falling victim to online fraud, below are some helpful tips to keep in mind:
1. .com vs .com.au
The effective regulation and registration policy reforms implemented by the .au Domain Administration more than 10 years ago have helped to make .au a trusted and secure namespace for both registrants and Internet users.
This is not the case in some national country codes or generic Top-Level Domains such as .com, .net or .org. For instance, there are no pre-conditions or requirements for registering domain names in .com or .net, meaning anyone may register a name and use it for any misleading purpose. This has been known to cause significant grief to many trademark holders and Internet users.
You can have greater trust in .com.au because you know that business details have been provided when the domain name has been registered. Also, you can trust that if an incident does occur, you will have an avenue of recourse through the .au Domain Administration to resolve fraud issues.
2. WHOIS check on all .au domain names
Want to know who actually owns the .com.au domain name you are visiting?
AusRegistry hosts a directory portal called WHOIS that allows anyone to quickly search for the contact details of every .com.au domain name owner. These contact details can provide you with comfort that you are dealing with a legitimate business entity.
While performing a WHOIS search you may also notice that some domain names have a special additional security measure call .auLOCKDOWN.
.auLOCKDOWN locks a domain name at the Registry level, preventing unauthorised changes.
Importantly, if a domain name has .auLOCKDOWN applied, you know the registrant has gone to extreme levels to protect their domain name and website.
4. Online security services
Online security is becoming ever more important as cyber criminals become more sophisticated in their activities.
Below are some helpful resources and online security tips from trusted authorities:
5. Mobile phone buying tips
In this particular scam, the fraudsters chose to sell mobile phones online.
The Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association – Australia’s peak body representing the mobiles industry – has produced a helpful guide with practical tips for consumers who want to purchase a mobile phone.
Please visit www.mobiletips.org.au for more information.
By George Pongas
General Manager, AusRegistry
Joint press release by AusRegistry and .au Domain Administration (auDA)
Melbourne, Australia – 15 October 2013: A survey of more than 10,000 Australians has found the .au domain name remains Australia’s home on the Internet with 95% of respondents identifying it as being uniquely representative of Australia compared to competing namespaces such as .com, .nz or .asia.
While .au enjoys widespread consumer and end user satisfaction, the report found only one in four Australians own a domain name and that 87% of those who do not own a domain name say they see no reason to.
The report – the first of its kind – sought to provide a baseline performance standard to profile .au domain name owners and measure against annually in future surveys.
Adrian Kinderis, CEO of AusRegistry, acknowledged the industry faces a major challenge to address the low level of domain name ownership.
“While we recently surpassed 2.7 million domain names under .au, there is clearly significant room for growth with less than 25% of respondents owning a domain name. We know that when Australians make a purchasing decision to register a domain name they more often than not choose .au.
“What we as an industry need to focus on now is raising greater awareness and education about the benefits of domain name ownership, particularly for businesses,” Mr Kinderis said.
The report, jointly prepared by AusRegistry and .au Domain Administration (auDA) with assistance from global market research company Effective Measure, found:
Chris Disspain, CEO of auDA, welcomed the report’s findings, particularly on .au’s governance.
“The survey respondents indicated satisfaction with the current level of governance for the .au namespace. It’s heartening to now have tangible data demonstrating the regulation and registration policy reforms we implemented more than 10 years ago have helped build trust in the .au namespace.
“This is supported by the fact that Australian businesses rely on .au for their online presence. Almost 80% of respondents who own a .au domain name use it for business purposes,” Mr Disspain said.
The report also identified over two-thirds of respondents said they did not have a need for a domain name, possibly relying on other options such as Facebook, Tumblr, email providers or other third party Internet applications. Interestingly, 10% of this group own a business while 6% host a blog – both of which are prime candidates for domain name ownership.
On the topic of selling .au domain names, the report suggests an opportunity exists to raise awareness about the .au auction and secondary market, with more than half of all respondents unaware of its existence. A strong secondary market is an indicator of a thriving namespace and there have been a number of high profile sales in recent times.
The report also touched on the potential competition .au might face next year with the introduction of new Top-Level Domains like .melbourne, .sydney and hundreds of others. While awareness of new Top-Level Domains is extremely low (only one in six respondents knew of them), the report suggests new TLDs will be complementary to .au and will allow registrants to enhance their online identity and brand.
The publication of today’s report follows a 2011 report by Deloitte Access Economics which found the .au domain namespace contributes $475 million to the Australian economy per year and supports more than 4300 full-time jobs.
The report will be a topic of discussion at the Australian Internet Governance Forum being hosted by auDA in Melbourne on 16 and 17 October.
Public Relations Manager
Ph: +61 3 9866 3710
Marketing and Communications Officer
.au Domain Administration Ltd
Ph: +61 3 8341 4111
AusRegistry is located in Melbourne, Australia and is the current Registry Operator and wholesale provider for all commercial domain names including .com.au and .net.au and non-commercial domain names, .gov.au and .edu.au.
.au Domain Administration Ltd (auDA) is an Australian non-profit company vested with the responsibility of operating the .au domain under an industry self-regulatory model, for the benefit of all stakeholders. In its role as manager of the .au domain, auDA develops and implements domain name policy and is responsible for consumer safeguards.