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December 26, 2017

Making Websites Accessible to Everyone – Part II

Person writing on computer keyboard.

How does your business stack up against the Section 508 Standards regarding ADA compliance for telecommunication equipment and products? Compliance in website accessibility is a must now.

Person writing on computer keyboard.It’s hard to believe that the year’s grace given by the Access Board ends on January 18, 2018. Website owners are already getting calls threatening lawsuits for noncompliance when they haven’t even explored actions that address mandatory compliance.

This is not a case where the Department of Justice (DOJ) investigates each business and site before adverse action is taken. A complaint about the lack of proper accessibility for individuals covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act can only be disregarded when exceptions are disregarded.

Site owners must stand ready to: (a) show proof of compliance, or (b) document why they are not subject to the requirements of that section.

Discrimination Comes in Many Forms

Why does the Federal Government create so many laws and mandates forbidding discrimination against disabled individuals?

The short answer is lack of awareness.

Some disabilities, such as visual difficulties, are not immediately noticeable.

In addition to Section 508, three primary laws prohibit discriminating in communication. ADA is one. Access by people with disabilities to advanced communications products and services is required by the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010.The Communications Act, Section 255, requires telecommunications services and products be made accessible.

Companies doing business with federal agencies must also take steps to comply with these directives. Healthcare, financial institutions, and private contractors are examples. Digital communications like software, apps, and emails must be 508 compliant, Since PDFs aren’t accessible by screen readers, they require 508 remediation.

New York and California Reinforce Reasons to Understand and Comply

Changing PDFs and Word documents to the most recent standards is challenging, yet essential. Short training classes are planned in New York for the review of ADA Titles II and III web regulations. Recent Department of Education and Department of Justice enforcement activities are reviewed along with state policy about web accessibility and Section 508’s impact. Attendees will benefit from discussions about the revised section, websites and electronic document design.

The State of California already has measures in place. California Government Code §11135(d), for example, requires fully accessible electronic and information technology if it is used or created by the state. Physical disabilities affecting user interaction on the web include:

  • hearing or vision loss.
  • cognitive disabilities.
  • limited manual dexterity.

State Universities support compliance with the use of software that evaluates website accessibility. State school students with disabilities can access online videos, files and documents thanks to Community Colleges resources.

State Government Code §11546.7 requires all state agencies and entities to have website compliance with WCAG 2.0 Level AA or a subsequent version, as well as Section 508, by July 1, 2019. A certification of compliance is required on each agency’s or entity’s home page.

Steps to Compliance

There’s a natural drive in many of us to do it all. The number of actions required to detect discrepancies and achieve complete 508 compliance is too much for one person. Why risk fines, penalties and the possible closure of your business because a step was missed? Reviewing communications and documents is a start to updating and corrections. Steps must be taken to be sure contractors are compliant, as well. Online assessment tools and an accessibility strategy are the basic steps to determining how to demonstrate the willingness to be compliant while the process is achieved.

Resources
https://www.access-board.gov/guidelines-and-standards/communications-and-it/about-the-ict-refresh/final-rule
https://www.mylearningplan.com/WebReg/ActivityProfile.asp?D=18662&I=2649761
http://www.3playmedia.com/2017/12/13/california-state-web-accessibility-laws/

December 11, 2017

Making Websites Accessible to Everyone – Part 1

internet accessability

internet accessabilityThe Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has been changing the way business is done in the US since 1990. President George H.W. Bush signed the law that continues to expand in a manner that provides equal opportunities for all citizens. The overall goal is to prohibit discrimination.

The Act oversees compliance so anyone with a disability can participate in mainstream American life and benefit from the same opportunities available to citizens without disabilities.

Your website falls under this Act.

There’s a misconception that the ADA only applies to government agencies.  However, Title III of the ADA and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act add details that infer responsibility for compliance is widespread. It’s overseen by the U.S. General Services Administration, also known as the GSA.  Specific duties include verifying that disabled individuals can access information and electronic technologies as well or better than Section 508 requirements. Unless there is an undue burden to achieve that goal, it requires access and use of data and information comparable to that afforded the general public.

What is Section 508 and who is affected by it?

The Workforce Rehabilitation Act of 1973 was updated in 1998 by the inclusion of Section 508. The most significant steps required Federal agencies to make EIT (electronic and information technology) accessible to people with disabilities. The latest update in January 2017 clarified federal sector information and communication technology (ICT) guidelines, such as the addition of telecommunications guidelines. Reorganized Section 508 and Communications Act Section 255 guidelines were aligned to reflect up-to-date innovations in communication technology. The changes apply to federal agencies as well as their contractors, vendors, and partners of those agencies, whether they operate in the US or abroad.

Section 508 compliance differs from that of ADA. The ADA’s Title III states nonprofit service providers and businesses with fifteen or more employees make accessibility accommodations so the disabled public has access to the same services, including websites and electronic media, as non-disabled clients. If your business is smaller, it is beneficial to pursue an ADA-compliant website because it:

  • Limits liability.
  • Meets the requirements of additional clients.

Confirm that any web developer you use includes compliant features in the original site and application plans. Businesses that do work for a government contractor or agency may be subjected to the same scrutiny used to measure their compliance. Standards under Section 508 apply to EIT obtained by the federal government, such as phone systems, computer software and hardware, and websites. Requirements fall under the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Section 508 Standards which cover access for individuals with sensory, cognitive, or physical disabilities.

The Access Board published a final rule on January 18, 2017 regarding accessibility guidelines and Section 508 Standards for telecommunication equipment and products. Compliance requirements are extended to January 18, 2018. The Department of Justice (DOJ) has indicated complaints regarding website ADA-compliance by businesses will be taken on a case-by-case basis. There is an interest in whether disabled Americans have equal access to online services and goods. Businesses and their websites are under scrutiny with little time remaining to determine their status regarding compliance. What resources are available to demonstrate the willingness to comply?

https://section508.gov/content/accessibility

https://www.access-board.gov/guidelines-and-standards/communications-and-it/about-the-ict-refresh/final-rule

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