Office of Civil Rights Ensures Website Accessibility

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11 Educational Organizations Reach Settlements Over Web Accessibility Complaints

On June 29th, the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) announced that agreements had been reached with 11 different educational organizations in seven states and one territory, which had had complaints filed against them involving website accessibility. They were concerned with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Title II of ADA—specifically with online services and programs. The settlements involved:

  • Juneau, Alaska, School District
  • Guam Department of Education
  • Montana School for the Deaf and Blind
  • Santa Fe, New Mexico, Public Schools
  • Washoe County, Nevada, School District
  • Davidson Academy of Nevada
  • Nevada Department of Education
  • Oregon Department of Education
  • Granite, Utah, School District
  • Bellingham, Washington, School District
  • The Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction

The most common problems included absence of alt text on critical images, navigation barring blind and low vision users from using the website (exclusively requiring mouse movement for access), color combinations that made text difficult to read, and inaccurately captioned videos. The complaints led to investigations for each cited organization.

The OCR did not complete these investigations as all 11 educational organizations expressed interest in resolving the cases voluntarily.  The resolutions look relatively similar, though the timelines for implementation of the agreed solutions differ slightly.

First and foremost, all parties must affirm their commitment  to ensuring that people with disabilities have opportunities equal to those of others to enjoy the websites’ programs, services, and activities, especially those delivered online.

9 of the 11 organizations are then required to perform a full audit of their website to assess any and all barriers to use for visitors with disabilities. Both Bellingham School District and Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Institution are not required to audit their websites. They are permitted to internally assess the site and report on proposed changes.

Following the audit, the steps are as follows:

  • Create policies and procedures that ensure accessibility for all newly developed site content.
  • Format all new website content and functionality to be accessible to people with disabilities
  • Form a plan for prioritizing and correcting all current barriers to accessibility on the site
  • Post a notice to those with disabilities instructing how to request access to online information or functionality that is currently inaccessible
  • Implement and consistently provide website accessibility training to any and all appropriate personnel

Read the full press release here.

These settlements are a huge win for the world of accessibility and will hopefully set a precedent for organizations (especially those in educational fields) to make web accessibility a priority.  As our world becomes all the more dependent on websites and online databases as a primary source of information and content, accessibility becomes all the more necessary.

To read more about the policies currently in place to protect the rights on those with disabilities, check our regulations page. For more updates coming out of the accessibility circuit, visit VITAC’s Accessibility News blog page!

By: Tori Trimm