Dr Sev Ozdowski OAM,
Acting Disability Discrimination Commissioner
April 15 2002
Sev Ozdowski

It was only ten months ago that I congratulated the Australian Bankers' Association on their commitment to making electronic based services more accessible to people with disabilities and older Australians.

At that time I was receiving the Association's Action Plan which committed them to developing industry standards on ATMs, EFTPOS, telephone and internet banking within a year.

I must say that I felt the goal commendable, but probably hard to achieve, as standards development processes often stretch out to two, three or more years.

It is with considerable pleasure, therefore, that I extend my congratulations to the ABA and to all those involved in the various working groups for developing these standards so quickly and so co-operatively.

I particularly want to congratulate David Murray, and his predecessor as chair of the Australian Bankers Association, Frank Cicutto, for having the vision to commit the ABA to this goal; David Bell for making sure the right people and resources were available to do what had to be done; Nick Hossack for managing the project and Tony Burke and Tim Noonan for their exceptional skill and tenacity in consulting and negotiating throughout the process.

I also want to acknowledge Deputy Commissioner Graeme Innes, Michael Small and Bruce Maguire from the Disability Rights Unit who I know have contributed significantly to this project.

Most of all though, I want to thank and congratulate all the people who contributed to the development of the industry standards through the working party process. This process has brought together representatives from the banks, retail sector, property sector, Credit Unions and Building Societies and community representatives - in particular those from the Council on the Ageing, Blind Citizens Australia and the Physical Disability Council. Their willingness to forge a partnership with the ABA was vital for the project to produce any outcome.

The results of their work are a series of industry standards which are now available to the financial services industry to adopt and implement. While the standards have no force of law I am confident that banks and other financial services will see the value in adopting them: both to improve their customer services and minimise the likelihood of complaints of discrimination.

Today's launch has its origin in the release, in 2000, of the Commission's report on the digital divide in e-commerce and the subsequent work of the Accessible E Commerce Forum, established jointly with the ABA.

The work of the Forum focused on the practical things that can be achieved to improve access. These industry standards are perhaps the most important and far reaching outcome of the Forum's work.

I believe the standards reflect current best practice and their full implementation will mean that Australia will be well placed to become a world leader in the area of accessible e-commerce. A commitment by the ABA to review their content in a year will ensure they continue to reflect best practice.

The task ahead, however, is for individual banks and other financial institutions to adopt the standards and develop timely implementation plans. The Commission will assist in any way it can in the development of those plans and has committed to reviewing the uptake of the standards, throughout the industry, in about a years time.

While the ABA has completed most of the projects it set itself in its Action Plan I am pleased to learn that a Phase 2 plan is in the process of being developed. Phase 2 will focus on:

  • promoting the adoption of the standards,
  • identifying possible access related problems in emerging technology such as Smart Cards, and
  • assisting members in the development of their own access plans.

I look forward to working with the ABA on these issues in the future.

Once again I congratulate the ABA and all those who have contributed to the development of these industry standards and I look forward to the day when every Australian can enjoy the benefits that e-commerce can bring.