Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Discovery at TxDLA

TxDLA held its annual conference in Galveston the last week in March. We started another round of the Online Certificate Program with a pre-conference session.  There were almost a dozen sessions during the conference that touched on accessibility issues, including mine.  (slides below)

Most of the sessions on accessibility were very good.  "Most" means that there was one that didn't meet my standards, and where they presented misinformation, which I was forced to correct.  It's always hard to know what information, or misinformation, will be presented when one is reviewing conference session proposals.

On the topic of misinformation, I was told by one university administrator that the institutional lawyer had taken the position, and told the administration, there was no reason to make courses accessible unless and until a student with a disability, approved by the Disability Services Office, was present in a course.   That might be accurate for a face-to-face course without any digital content (that would mean without a digital syllabus, digital resources, and especially links to websites that students are expected to explore as out-of-class activities).

Unfortunately I'm not surprised by the guidance offered by the institution's lawyer.   Unless an institution's lawyer is current on disability issues, especially the recent online consent decrees and findings by DoJ and OCR, there is a good chance they'll provide inaccurate guidance.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

March Happenings

A colleague asked me to help him with an article he had been asked (or volunteered) to write.  It was focused on the Section 508 Refresh.  It seems that has gotten some higher ed folks attention, but they seem to think because the Refresh says there's a year to implement that there's no big press to come into compliance.

However, as I've pointed out here a number of times, Section 504 and ADA that are the laws that educational institutions have an obligation to meet, and those have been around for decades.  So, here's the article

Then, last week, I did a keynote at UTRGV's Excellence in Online Learning Conference.
The named the conference The Year of Access in Online Education  So I entitled my keynote: What Makes This the Year of Access in Online Learning?

Here are the slides for that presentation.

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.