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Dr Scott Hollier hopes to make life easier for disabled people. Photo supplied.

Australian of the Year finalist

By Melissa Sheil

A MAIDA VALE lecturer has been announced as a contender for the prestigious 2022 Australian of the Year title, recognised for his industrious efforts alleviating digital hardship for disabled people.

Dr Scott Hollier, a digital guru, is co-founder and chief executive of the Centre for Accessibility (CFA) Australia, a nationally registered not-for-profit that aims to ensure disabled people have the ability to access the internet and digital world.

“There are two main factors we address at CFA, which are ensuring that disabled people can have the right accessibility tools on their device of choice, such as talk to text, and ensuring that the content on the web works with those technologies,” he said.

“We do this through our free help desk, training workshops, providing audits on apps, documents and websites based on the recognised standards, research, advocacy and just trying to keep an open door for those wanting to be better but unsure where to start.

“Most industries and businesses are very amenable but just don’t realise they have an issue, so we help them decipher the guidelines and collaborate rather than criticise.

“Access online is the gateway to independence and it’s exciting to think that once we do get access right, there will be a greater modicum of equality across the country.”

Dr Hollier, whose retinitis pigmentosa has left him legally blind, said he founded CFA in 2018 partly because of his own difficult experiences.

“I remember a few years ago, my son and I wanted to go to a game of footy and when I went to buy tickets online, I came across all of these hurdles that I couldn’t pass,” he said.

“Even though I use variety of assistive technologies such as word reader magnifier and a high contrast colour theme, I found the website very difficult to use – and at the end there was a captcha code that I couldn’t complete which ultimately locked me out.

“To go to my son and say ‘I can’t buy us these tickets because I’m blind’ is the sort of challenge that is troubling to face, that tens of thousands of people go through and we’re trying to rectify.”

Though the digital world has improved greatly in terms of disability access (most devices now have assistive technology automatically built in), Dr Hollier said there is still a way to go, specifically in terms of legislation.

“One of the limitations we face in this area in Australia, is that the Disability Act which is the overarching legislation, was created in 1992, and has no mention of the internet,” he said.

“We have individual policies trying to string digital accessibility together, but reform and review is needed to make it stronger.

“In this COVID era, the internet is an essential service, and disabled people need to be able to do their taxes and banking and grocery shopping just as much as everyone else.”

Dr Hollier is among four nominees in WA and 32 across the country in the running for the Australian of the Year.

“There’s so many people doing amazing things that aren’t acknowledged across the country so it’s a privilege to be picked and I’m very grateful for the support and platform this can bring to CFA,” he said.

The WA winner will be announced next Thursday, November 4 and the overall winner announced next year on January 25.

About The Editorial Team

Echo News gives readers an alternative to other media outlets in WA and enjoys a very high rate of readership in its distribution area. Our Echo News team are a small group of devoted individuals who work hard to give the local community an easy to read, yet intelligent mix of local community stories.

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