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  1. Be the first contact point in a department to give advice on equal opportunity issues.
  2. May be invited to serve as a member of the Discrimination Complaints Committee to conduct formal investigations.
  3. Can help to promote equal opportunity in the department by:
    • Attending events of the Equal Opportunities Festival held annually.
    • Encouraging staff members of the department to participate in the events of the Equal Opportunity Festival.
    • Checking whether the website of the department is in line with the standing guidelines on web accessibility and if not, the EOA can help to amend the website or ask the departmental staff member to amend. Websites that are inaccessible to persons with a disability could be a kind of disability discrimination under the Disability Discrimination Ordinance.

As an EOA is the first contact person in a department to give advice on equal opportunity issues, what are the Dos & Don'ts in handling complaints?

  • Refer the case to the Equal Opportunity Unit or seek help from the Equal Opportunity Unit whenever you consider appropriate
  • Do not act as a judge
  • Write down the alleged events chronologically
  • Analyze the facts objectively
  • Be impartial
  • Examine whether the allegations could constitute prohibited discrimination/harassment
  • Explain the possible channels and let the Complainant choose the next step
    • Report to the Equal Opportunity Unit
    • Act in accordance with the Procedures in handling discrimination/harassment complaints of HKU
    • Complain to the Equal Opportunities Commission
    • Report to the police
    • Start civil proceedings at the District Court

What are the procedures for handling discrimination/ harassment complaints at HKU?

Title: Flow Chart on Handling Request for Advice/Assistance and Complaints on Discrimination/Harassment (on grounds covered under the HKU Equal Opportunity Policy)  Top of the Chart begins with: Request for Advice/Assistance received by Equal Opportunity Unit.  Then: Explanation of Definitions/Procedures/Options.  Followed by three possible scenarios: 1. Resolved 2. Complaint in writing 3. Not within remit - referral to other support services  If Complaint in writing, then go to: 1. Informal Resolution, or 2. Formal Procedures, If so decided by the complainant,  If go for Information Resolution, then two possible outcomes: 1. Resolved 2. Not resolved  If not resolved, then go to Formal Procedures: Preliminary Inquiry  Then: Preliminary Inquiry report considered by President and Vice-Chancellor  Followed by three possible scenarios: 1. Matter to be referred to an outside body 2. Investigation by Discrimination Complaints Committee (DCC) 3. Case Dismissed  If complaint referred to the Discrimination Complaints Committee (DCC) for investigation, then two possible outcomes: 1. Complaint Substantiated, then Recommendation of Penalty 2. Complaint Unsubstantiated  In either case: DCC Report submitted to President and Vice-Chancellor  Lastly: Right of appeal under relevant University procedures  Note: This flow chart is for illustrative purposes only. For details, please refer to the University’s Procedures for Handling Discrimination/Harassment Complaints on the EOU website.    Equal Opportunity Unit Updated on August 17, 2021

For more details, please refer to paragraph 11 to 52 of Procedures for handling discrimination/harassment complaints, which can be found at HERE.


What are the guidelines on web accessibility?


  1. For persons with visual impairment (PWVI) using a PC, a software known as a "screen reader" is used. The output is in the form of synthesised speech and/or Braille through a refreshable Braille device. The most common screen reading software is "JAWS" which is available in many languages including English and Chinese.


  1. Essentially, JAWS will read anything on the screen that has a text base. It will not read images-based material, e.g. graphics and photos. File formats containing text components (hence readable by PWVI) include, MS Word (doc), simple text (txt), email (eml), Excel (xls), Power Point (ppt), webpages (htm/html) and text-based (called searchable) PDF (PDF). Of these, the most readable ones are doc and txt, doc being preferred for its ease of navigation with the cursor keys.

  2. If there is a choice, it is preferable to provide a document in doc format to students with visual impairment.


  1. A brief text descriptive caption by an image or figure would be immensely helpful to readers with visual impairment. This would inform them of the existence of an unreadable image.


  1. Files in such formats as Microsoft Office, plain text and searchable PDF are readable by Braille devices used by people with visual impairment. PDF files produced by most scanners are not readable by Braille scanners.
    A searchable PDF file can be produced simply by clicking "Save As" in Microsoft Office.
    Alternatively, a searchable PDF file can be produced from Microsoft Office by the procedures below:
    • Click "FileàPrint" just like printing a hard copy.
    • Select "Adobe PDF" as the printer.
    • Click "OK" just like printing a hard copy.
    • Enter a name for the PDF file when asked to do so.
    • Click "Save".

  2. Any PDF file containing a pure image has no text base and is hence unreadable by PWVI. Such file is said to be unsearchable. A sighted person cannot tell the difference by just looking at the screen as an unsearchable PDF image may appear to contain text although, in fact, the apparent text is part of an image. The screen reader JAWS would say "empty document", as it sees no embedded readable text base.


  1. An image (unsearchable) PDF file will be generated by scanning a document using most older scanners. This is useless to students with visual impairment. In fact, this is the major source of undesirable (unsearchable/unreadable) PDF files.


  1. With newer models of scanners, the user has a choice of either an ordinary (unsearchable) or a good searchable output. The latter is normally obtained under the option called "scan document" rather than "scan picture". Basically the latter (searchable option) has a built-in additional text-recognition procedure known as optical character recognition (OCR) which embeds the text base in the PDF file making the latter searchable for PWVI.


  1. For the technically minded, it is possible to convert an image (bad) PDF into searchable (good) PDF format using an OCR software. A software called Omnipage or Omnipage professional can perform this task. This procedure is only used as the last resort (e.g. if the original doc file has been lost) as, apart from being time consuming, the accuracy of (OCR) is always limited.


  1. To avoid the trouble mentioned in 6 and 9 above, it is preferable and more efficient to have a good PDF (searchable) file generated using the direct technique mentioned in 5. This would do away with the extra procedures of printing, scanning and running OCR with an inferior output.


  1. Most online electronic materials, e.g. electronic journals, online newspapers and library resources are text-based, hence readable for PWVI.


  1. In MS Word, apart from standard ASCII text characters, most of the symbols entered under the "insert/symbol" menu are readable with a special keystroke.

Further information/ enquiries

To learn more about the Equal Opportunity Unit, please visit
For enquiries, please contact the Equal Opportunity Unit at 3917 1768 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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