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.

Monday, November 07, 2016

More on Accessibility and VR.

If you haven't read the previous post about accessibility and VR you might want to check out that post  and follow the link there to a detailed discussion of accessibility and VR on another blog.  These two posts (and their links) provide a great deal of information about accessibility issues and VR.

VR is one of the current hot technology topics in education, and it's starting to be used in business training too.

The video: Accessibility and VR: Accessibility Basics and How They Relate to VR  by Brian Van Buren is at the end of this post.

This is worth the time (The video runs 43:31) if you have any interest in accessibility in gaming and especially VR (and AR/MR).   Brian is talking to an audience that I assume is predominantly VR designers, so some of the talk is technical, but most of it is to help the designers understand accessibility issues.

I found it helpful because it expanded my thinking about accessibility into the gaming environment which is starting to show in K-12 and higher education. Brian makes the connection to ADA and Section 508.  He points out that Section 508 is for government purchase of technology and so anyone hoping to sell VR products to governments needs to make the product accessible.  He points out that while Section 508 is a US law other countries have similar legislation.  What he doesn't reference is VR as starting to move into academic settings and the need to meet both ADA and Section 504.

Brian cites an  projection that by 2024 VR will be a $120 billion industry, and he indicates that may be optimistic, but still...

My favorite line  comes at the end, in Brian's final final thoughts where he says -- and it's on the slide:
"Thinking about accessibility makes you a better designer: designing for accessibility creates a better product" 

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

VR and Accessiblity

I've been wondering about accessibility issues with virtual reality (VR), especially since this seems to be the year of VR.  I've not seen any discussion or even hints at accessibility issues in VR, but clearly there are accessibility issues.  

A couple of years ago I had a discussion with a colleague about accessibility in computer gaming.  This was in conjunction with an educational program that taught students to write programs for games.  I started looking for information about accessibility in gaming.  I was introduced to the Games_access mailing list.

In a previous life I'd been working with folks at IGDA (International Game Developers Association). The Games Access folks are a Special Interest Group (SIG) of IDGA.
To subscribe or unsubscribe via the World Wide Web, visit, via email, send a message with subject or body 'help' to You can reach the person managing the list at

I've been on the list now for a couple of years and it's been informative.  There are game designers with disabilities on the list and folks working to make games more accessible.  Some of the discussions they get into are very technical and others much more fitting with my interests.

All this is by way of introducing you to a very interesting blog post by Ian Hamilton about VR and Accessibility on Gamasutra.

It's long and detailed and raises accessibility issues beyond the more commonly identified issues. If you're interested in accessibility issues and VR this is a great read.  It begins:

Virtual reality brings some fantastic opportunities for people with disabilities. New experiences, therapeutic benefits, even accessibility for people who have better head control than hand control. But it also brings considerable new barriers, with great potential to lock people out from these benefits.
Some of the barriers that VR presents are unavoidable, there are people who will simply never be able to take part in VR as it currently exists. From the people who will never be able to overcome simulation sickness, to people who simply aren’t physically able to have a bulky device on their head.
But other barriers are avoidable, through the right design considerations - through accessibility.
It is still early days for this iteration of VR, so this post doesn’t aim to provide all of the answers or form a concrete set of guidelines. There will be issues that are not covered here, and still there’s huge room for innovation, discovering new and better design patterns. 
continue reading this post at: