Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Will It Take Thousands of Dollars to Make Your Website Accessible? The Followup

Back in November I made a post Is Your Website Accessible? and promised to report after going to my local school district to talk about their website.   Last month, just before the holiday break I attended the School Board Meeting, where I made a brief presentation during the public comment period.   The rules don't allow the Board members to respond, they just listen.   I gave them two handouts, the OCR press release referenced in the prior posting, and summaries from two different web accessibility tools.  I don't expect anyone to simply accept my statement that their website isn't legally accessible, especially if they don't know me,

I heard from the Superintendent the very next day.  She said in part:
I wanted to let you know that we started today trying to figure out how to go about improving our website to be compliant. My technology staff is researching options for us...
Are you aware of any grants or other financial assistance in helping small districts like us to create and maintain websites that are compliant? We use a free service now and my preliminary contacts with two companies today said the initial cost would be thousands of dollars.
My first reaction was directed the two contacts who told the Superintendent it would cost thousands of dollars.  The only problems identified by the accessibility tools were lack of ALT tags.  I doubt the companies saw the reports or bothered to look at the site.  Ideally the companies would not have given an estimate without some investigation.  I'm afraid the companies she contacted might not fully understand what an accessible website is, or what it can take to make it compliant.

I suggested to the Superintendent that the accessibility issues could probably be handled by the district's computer science students.  I referenced the WebAim page on Alt tags. The Superintendent said the tech team would review my email at their January meeting.  I've not heard anything this month.

I took the response as positive.  Of course, action will be the proof.

As for the question about grants, I don't know of any.  In my role as Public Policy Chair of  TxDLA I have been talking with my state representative about proposing a bill to get money to help educational institutions bring their digital resources into compliance, but he doesn't believe we can get the funds this session, but did outline a plan to be successful at the next session.

The bottom line to the story is that the lack of labels for graphics on websites (the alt tags) are the most commonly cited problem in the dozens of OCR and DoJ reports I've seen, and they are one of the easiest things to fix, if the folks posting graphics and photos would just use the dialog box that asks for the description.  It won't take thousands of dollars.

Friday, December 02, 2016

Opportunity to Impact Web Accessibility Standards

Short Notice!  Act before 9 December 2016.

The W3C WCAG Working Group's Silver Task Force has issued an invitation for submission of names of people, groups, or organizations to be considered as stakeholders for creation of future guidelines.

WCAG 2.0 is eight years old and ready for an update.  Silver is the code name for the new WCAG version.  The Silver Task Force is building it.

If you are interested in being considered as a stakeholder, or wish to nominate an organization or group you can go to this link:   http://goo.gl/QeYbOl

You can nominate as many names as you want, including yourself, but you must do it before December 9, 2016.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Is Your Website Accessible?

Mentioned in a previous post, the U. S. Dept of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in Region X, cited 11 educational organizations in seven states in their region (Western US and Pacific Islands) for simple accessibility problems with their websites.

It appears that OCR may have only looked at the front page, often a Special Needs information page, and something else.  In one case, the Assistive Technology page.  I'm guessing they did the analysis in a very simple way.  Used one of the existing Website accessibility checkers.

You can check your favorite educational institution's website.  It's easy.  I generally use two sites because they report a little differently.  Note that with these you can only check URLs that do not require password access.

Go to each of these and enter the URL of the page you want to check.

Each will generate a report.  (Select WCAG 2.0 AA for CynthiaSays -- that's the standard DoJ and OCR use.)  

The reports reflect differences in how the two sites do the analysis so it's nice to get the two.  Here are the two reports on the same public school district website.  

Looks like WAVE's summary shows 6 errors. I'd speculate that OCR would cite this district.  And one of the issues for this site is lack of Alt Tags.  Which is what OCR cited on each of those 11 non-complaint websites.  

OCR uses it's legal authority to enforce both Section 504 and Title II of the ADA in each letter.

The school district site I used is my local district, and I've told the district administrators about the problems with the website -- and sent them reports at least 3 times over the past 2 years.  Once before the new site was up, and I had hoped they'd use the info I provided to deal with their web contractor.  They didn't.  Most recently, I contacted the district's Section 504 Coordinator with the information and volunteered to provide some assistance.  I didn't get a response.

I see two different ways of proceeding.  I could file a complaint with the regional OCR office (not Region X), but that will take time for OCR to investigate the complaint depending on how busy they are.   What I plan to do, is make an appearance at an upcoming Board meeting and use my 3 minutes of public comment to raise the issue. I'll probably print out and give them copies of this post.  I'll report on this in a future post. 

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Accessibility Training Required by OCR and DoJ in Consent Decree and Resolution Letters

I promised to get back to this topic a week or so ago.  This post provides academic institutions with guidance on the content of accessibility training they should be providing.

Before I started writing this post I found another set of accessibility findings. The Region X Office for Civil Rights had and interesting announcement earlier this year.  They reportedly received complaints involving access to websites at 11 different education organizations.  OCR cited Section 504 and Title II of the ADA in each letter. Each of the 11 parties, including two state education agencies, and 9 K-12 organizations settled (resolved complaint) before OCR completed their investigation.

Each of the organization's main website, and at least a couple of additional pages were cited because the sites used graphics without alternative text tags. (The easiest thing to check.)   I believe that by settling before OCR completed their investigation, the institutions avoided more detailed findings. I've said right along, settle as soon as you can.

As a part of the settlements, each of the organizations is required to provide "training on website accessibility for all appropriate personnel." That is all the detail that is in the letters and the letters are all basically the same.

The Department of Justice (DoJ) on the other hand, in the Dudley v Miami Consent Decree was much more specific about the content of the accessibility training.  I've previously posted the list of folks DoJ wanted trained.  The training topics include:

  • the required Accessible Technology Policy which is spelled out in detail in the Consent Decree
  • identity and responsibilities of: 
    • University Accessibility Committee
    • Accessible Technology Coordinator
    • Web Accessibility Coordinator
    • Accessible Technology Specialist
    • personnel in Student Disability Services
  • common assistive technologies used by individuals with disabilities interacting with computers, website, and tools used for learning in and out of the classroom
  • common technological accessibility barriers
  • common methods, resources, etc. for ensuring accessible documents
  • Overview of accepted accessibility standards including 
    • WCAG 2.0 
    • UAAG 1.0
    • MathML
    • DAISY
    • EPUB3
    • BANA 
    • and others
  • consideration of the selection of course texts that have accessible electronic formats
  • the process for requesting and receiving accommodations
  • resources, support, and time frame to deliver accessible converted materials
  • guidance for creating accessible documents
And that's most but not every item included in DoJ's requirements.

Does your institution provide accessibility training, and does it include all the topics DoJ required of Miami?

According to their website, Miami has almost 19,000 students; offers 120 bachelor's, 60 master's, and 13 doctoral degrees. I was unable to determine how many faculty and staff are employed there.