Accessibility News

There is always something new going on in the world of accessibility. Whether a new law, standard or technique to improve accessibility, we will keep you updated on how you can provide accessibility for everyone. You can also view our News Archives page to be sure you didn't miss anything. 

Does my website have to be ADA compliant?

Online presence is vital to the success of businesses today. We spend a lot of time and money ensuring our websites are beautiful, clean, and user-friendly. Unfortunately, too many businesses forget to ensure their websites actually appear this way to everyone, specifically, those with disabilities. Forgetting this step increases the risk for every business's worst nightmare—a lawsuit. 

Between 2017 and 2018, website accessibility lawsuits increased over 170%, and they continue to rise. Alarmed by this increase, every business is trying to figure out if their website has to comply with the American with Disabilities Act (ADA). In addition to federal ADA guidelines, individual states have their own laws for preventing discrimination. For example, California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act and New York’s New York State Human Rights Law both protect disabled individuals from discrimination.

Since the ADA is a strict liability law that does not allow room for excuses (e.g., my web developer is working on it), the best person to ask if you need to comply with anti-discrimination laws is your attorney. However, here are some things you can consider to help you decide:

  • Am I required to provide handicap parking spaces?
  • Do I have to allow service animals?
  • Do I employ more than 15 full-time employees?
  • Am I a grocery store, bakery, school, or restaurant? (List not inclusive)
  • Am I a state or local government agency?
  • Do I have to comply with Section 508, Section 504, the Civil Rights Act of 1991, or any other anti-discrimination law?
  • Do I want to increase my internet presence? 

Answering yes to any of these questions means your website must be accessible. If your anxiety level just jumped up a few notches, take action now to get your website out of the danger zone.

What does website ADA compliance mean?

lady sitting at desk looking confused at laptop

When most people hear the terms accessible or ADA, the first thought that comes to mind are wheelchair accommodations such as ramps. After all, the universal symbol for accessibility includes an image of a wheelchair. Although a website doesn’t need a wheelchair accommodation, a website that is not designed for accessibility is equal to a building without wheelchair accommodations. 

There are many factors to consider when providing an accessible website. The main goal is to provide equal access to everyone. “Everyone” includes individuals with low vision or vision loss, hearing loss, cognitive disabilities, mobile impairments, age-related impairments, seizure disorders, etc. Many of these conditions require the use of assistive technology. Here are a few things your website must provide in order to comply with ADA:

  • Sufficient color contrast
  • Content alternatives such as alternative text for images and captions for auditory and video content
  • Consistent layout and navigation 
  • Keyboard navigation (ability to access everything without a mouse)
  • Descriptive links
  • Zoom text capabilities up to 200%

While this isn’t a complete list, it is some of the most common barriers to ADA compliance. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) provide guidelines and techniques for developing accessible web content. Whoever designs, develops, and maintains your website should know and understand these guidelines. 

How do I make my website accessible?

If you want the easy route, then this question is the easiest for us to answer. Simply call Biz Webmasters, and we will create an accessible website for you faster than you can read through WCAG or any other accessibility standard. If you decide you want to tackle this yourself, here are some steps you need to take:

Perform a website accessibility audit. Unless you already know and understand what it takes to make an accessible website (in which case, you wouldn’t be reading this), you will need to hire an accessibility auditor. Your accessibility audit should include both manual and automated testing as well as testing performed by disabled users. Since we are accessibility experts, we can provide this service for you. Learn about our accessibility auditing services.

Review your audit and determine the extent of remediation. Unless you are your own developer, you will need to review the audit findings with your current or future developer. If barriers are minimal, you may be able to remediate (fix) your current website (step 3). Otherwise, you will need to develop a new website that is accessible to everyone (step 4). 

Work with your development team to perform website remediation. Be sure your team completes digital accessibility training before attempting the remediation. Once your team is trained, edit your website coding to remove all accessibility barriers. Your auditor can verify successful remediation.

If your audit resulted in an extensive list of errors, the fastest and most cost-efficient remediation is to develop a new website. Accessibility should be handled during development anyway, so this is your best option. 

Post an accessibility statement, including a feedback form for visitors to use in the event they experience an accessibility barrier.

If you need assistance with any or all of the above steps, we can help. Biz Webmasters makes accessibility a priority for all our clients. All our teams are trained in accessibility and are ready to help you bring your website into compliance with ADA standards. Contact us before the Office of Civil Rights contacts you!

Posted by Kelly Childs, Director of Website Accessibility

Collaborate and Get Accessible Results

Male and female coworker giving a high five after collaborating accessibly

We all want to make things quick, easy, and as efficient as possible. Thankfully, we have amazing developers around the globe who thrive on making our lives easier. Tools such as Google Docs offer remarkable collaboration options. Chances are, your organization is already using Google Docs or a similar tool for collaboration. We aren’t going to get into the actual accessibility of the specific tools you use; we’ll leave that up to your organization’s accessibility officers. We want to talk about the end product. After all, that’s what you are sharing with the rest of the world, right?

So, what happens when you want to share your finished product in an accessible way? Your goal is to provide a document that looks the same to everyone, regardless of ability. The best way to provide accessible documents that maintain formatting and work on any operating system is a Portable Document Format, commonly known as a PDF. Lucky for you, your tool of choice easily converts your document to a PDF. Simple, right? That all depends on how well you prepare the document and if you create it with accessibility in mind and in compliance with federal accessibility guidelines.

Test the PDF to confirm accessibility

Let’s use a Google Doc as our example. You’ve done everything Google told you to do in order to make a document accessible. You’ve downloaded it as a PDF and want to make sure it’s accessible before posting it. How do you test a PDF for accessibility? You can use one or all of these options:

The PDF accessibility test failed. Now what?

Lady looking at laptop confused because her PDF accessibility test failed

If you downloaded a Google Doc directly to a PDF and tested it, you are now wondering what happened to all of the accessibility steps you took such as using heading styles, adding alternative text to images, and creating clean, easy-to-read tables. Unfortunately, they are all gone. The tagging structure of an accessible PDF is not created when converting a Google Doc directly to a PDF.

Instead of downloading directly to a PDF, the better option is to first export the Google Doc as an MS Word document. From Word, convert the Word document into a PDF. (If you choose to use MS Word online and do not use tables for layout purposes, you can usually skip this step and convert directly to a PDF.)

Depending on the layout you used in your Google Doc, you may need to make some adjustments in Word before converting to PDF. For example,

  • add alternative text to images;
  • confirm tables are only used for data and not layout purposes; 
  • add metadata such as a title; and 
  • confirm headings are labeled as headings and not just paragraph text styled to look like a heading.

This isn’t a complete list of accessibility checks, but it’s the most common elements that can fail with the quickest fixes. Be sure to run the accessibility checker in Word before converting to a PDF. Passing these checks will make the work you need to do with your PDF a little easier.

Test again

Once you’ve taken all the steps you can with your original document to ensure accessibility and have converted it to a PDF, test it again. If you are not familiar with how to use a screen reader for testing, the PDF Accessibility Checker mentioned above has a screen reader preview option. Not only does this option show how the document will be read to someone using a screen reader, it’s also beneficial to help troubleshoot the structure issues you find, especially with tables.

After confirming your document is accessible, you are ready to post it. If we manage your website, simply upload the document through our customer service portal, and we will get it posted accessibly for you right away. If you manage your own website, be sure to create a descriptive link to the document so your document is completely accessible to everyone. 

Is there an easier way to ensure accessible documents?

Classroom of adult students learning about accessibility

Knowledge is your most powerful tool. The easiest way to create accessible documents is to embrace accessibility and learn the standards. Once you learn the necessary techniques, creating accessible documents becomes second nature. At first, you may feel like you’re learning how to type all over again, but the sooner you learn to think accessibly, the sooner you will be creating accessible documents without second-guessing and wasting time remediating PDFs. 

Of course, if you need formal training, we can help! We offer various options for document accessibility training, including low-cost webinars, in-person training for small teams, and ongoing consulting. Request accessibility training information to find the best solution for your team right away.

What if I don’t have time to remediate all of my documents?

If creating accessible documents is not part of your job description or what you signed up for, we are the experts of choice. We have a painless process to give you the accessibility you need and everyone deserves. Our document remediation team works around the clock to provide you with accessible documents. Learn more about our remediation services, and let us help you stay in compliance with federal accessibility guidelines.

Posted by Kelly Childs

Accessibility: More than Luck

Man crossing fingers hoping for luck

Accessibility is more than just luck, and it's not a one-click fix. Accessibility includes research, knowledge, skill, and testing. If these are skills you or your team do not currently have, act now! It’s only a matter of time before you have to face the issue. Did you know the number of federal website accessibility lawsuits nearly tripled in 2018 compared to 2017! Over 2250 website accessibility lawsuits were filed in federal court under Title III of the ADA in 2018.

What does this have to do with your digital documents? The Section 508 refresh clarified that agency official communication must be accessible. Additionally, the refresh stated the following nine types of documents must be compliant with accessibility standards:

  1. An emergency notification
  2. An initial or final decision adjudicating an administrative claim or proceeding
  3. An internal or external program or policy announcement
  4. A notice of benefits, program eligibility, employment opportunity, or personnel action
  5. A formal acknowledgment of receipt
  6. A survey questionnaire
  7. A template or form
  8. Educational or training materials
  9. Intranet content designed as a web page

The only exception listed in the refresh pertains to records maintained by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) pursuant to federal record keeping statutes, which documents are not required to conform unless they are public facing. 

If you’re counting on luck to keep you flying under the radar of federal law, you need to also be ready to go through discovery, summary judgment, and possibly trial. We believe it’s best to avoid accessibility lawsuits altogether and get accessible now. Remember, accessibility is a continual process, not a project. When it comes to document remediation, many organizations can become overwhelmed and frustrated, so it’s important to keep the end goal in site, which is to provide your information to everyone regardless of ability.  

As mentioned previously, research, knowledge, skill, and testing are all necessary elements for providing accessibility. Let’s briefly discuss each one. 

Research

If you’re still reading, good job! You are already starting your accessibility research. Stay organized with your research. Start with these steps:

Learn why accessibility is important. Understanding why we do something will create a desire to learn more and help you develop empathy for the people to whom you are giving access. In my experience, “because I said so” isn’t great motivation for implementing or understanding how to apply the standards. But learning the whys of accessibility from the beginning will provide greater success for learning, applying, and maintaining accessibility standards. 

Learn accessibility standards. We know there are numerous websites providing instruction on digital accessibility. How is one to know which one provides the most accurate information and techniques? The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is the main international standards organization for the internet. W3C’s Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) develops Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), so if you want to know what the standards are, we recommend starting here by going straight to the source.  

Learn how to apply the accessibility standards and techniques to your digital content including websites, apps, and electronic documents. Depending on the digital platforms your organization uses, this may require additional training with your specific developer. 

Of course, if you are one of our clients, we handle it all for you. Basically, you provide the documents and/or information you need on your website, and we develop it accessibility for you. Sound too good to be true? Here’s where luck is on your side since we handle all of these steps for you. If you prefer to handle it yourself, keep reading to learn what to do with the research you complete.

Knowledge

You’ve done the research, understand what accessibility is, why you need to apply it, and how to do it. Now it’s time to put your knowledge to use. Benjamin Franklin said, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” To earn the interest from this new found knowledge, remember that knowing about accessibility has no value until you apply it. 

The best time to apply accessibility is when you create a document. Think of it like building a house. If your foundation isn’t strong, you will spend a lot of time during the rest of the building process trying to “make it work” to account for the lack of underlying support. A little extra time and effort in the beginning provides the support you need to add all the additional elements that will end with a beautiful home that everyone can enjoy. Similarly, we find it’s much easier to apply accessibility while writing digital content than having to remediate it later. Whether you use Word, Excel, Google Docs, or any other software, apply accessibility as you develop your documents. If your end result will be a PDF document, you can finish the process using a program such as Adobe DC to adjust tagging structure as needed. 

The more you create accessible content, the more your knowledge of standards and techniques will increase, and the easier it will become. It’s also important to remember that just as the World Wide Web continuously evolves, so do accessibility techniques. Continue to increase your accessibility knowledge by staying up-to-date with new standards. (Tip: Subscribe to our news feed to help you stay informed.) 

Skill

With all this new found knowledge, your skills have already begun to evolve. Apply your knowledge, and apply it continuously. A skilled accessibility developer is not a part-time job. A little time and luck are not equal to the sustainability of skill. 

Additionally, if your goal is to continuously maintain accessible digital content, you will quickly learn it involves a team of skilled developers. For example, to provide our clients with complete digital accessibility, we ensure all our teams continuously learn how to apply accessibility, including our

  • project coordinators;
  • copywriters;
  • programmers;
  • graphic and user interface (UI) designers;
  • content and graphic updaters;
  • document remediators; and
  • essentially, everyone!

Testing

How do you know if you did it right? The only true way to evaluate accessibility is to test for it. Use both automated and manual techniques. In addition to your own testing, we also recommend using a team of disabled users. This will give you true results and allow you better insight into what causes accessibility barriers. The article we posted on our School Webmasters News page, Automated vs. Manual Accessibility Testing, will help you understand the importance of both techniques. 

Once testing is complete, test again. As mentioned previously, accessibility is a process and not just a project. Test your content each time it’s updated. This is another reason why it’s important to ensure all your teams are trained in accessibility. Let each team implement testing during their individual processes. As a result, you will always have accessible documents from the beginning that you never have to worry about fixing later.

Contact us before your luck runs out!

If all this sounds a bit overwhelming, you’re not alone. Unless you are actually in the business of digital development, we’ve learned that no matter how much we attempt to simplify digital accessibility, it’s always better to leave it to the experts. That’s us. Our expert team will work with your documents to make sure your content is accessible day in and day out. Imagine the relief your IT department will feel when you tell them you have someone to handle all things accessible so they can focus on the network skills they were hired to perform in the first place. 

Has your luck already run out? Do you find yourself in the midst of an accessibility lawsuit? Of course, we can help you with this too! Whether it pertains to your documents or your website, we can provide you with an accessibility audit and the tools you need to remediate your digital content, allowing you to comply with current ADA laws, increase SEO, and create peace of mind knowing you are doing the right thing. 

Contact Get ADA Docs today to learn more!

Posted by Kelly Childs, Director of Website Accessibility

Website Accessibility is Hard! Wait—What?

confused man sitting at computer scratching head

In December 2018, I posted an article about giving the gift of accessibility. However, there is one small detailed I failed to mention. Creating accessibility is hard. It takes time and training that most document and website authors did not plan for. If you are in the depths of trying to figure out how to make your content accessible, you are probably thinking, “No kidding!” 

We see Section 508 Success Criteria, WCAG A, AA, and AAA guidelines, VPAT requirements, PDF/UA conformance, and many other acronyms and references quickly mentioned every time we ask the all-knowing Google how to make something accessible. To top it all off, if we don’t know what all of the standards are and what they mean, we must not really care about everyone’s needs, especially those with disabilities, right? While I’m not here to tell you that accessibility is actually easy (of course, unless we do it all for you), I will say that just because you haven’t mastered the art of WCAG doesn’t mean you don’t care about your cubicle partner who can’t hear the latest candygram circling your office due to a hearing impairment.

Conquer the Feat

So what do we do about this laborious feat we must take on and conquer or else find a new career?  We begin. We begin by having a positive attitude. We begin by creating a plan. We begin by accepting the challenge with confidence. Let’s take these suggestions step by step.

Step 1: Have a positive attitude

hands with scissors cutting paper so it says I can do it instead of I can't do it

Having a positive attitude brings optimism, which allows you to be more productive. Since there is a vast list of accessibility features to learn, setting a goal to increase your productivity level may be the most important goal you set this year. To help develop and keep a positive attitude, I suggest empathy training for you and your team. Find ways to understand why accessibility is important. Learn what types of disabilities affect someone who views digital content. Reach out to someone who uses assistive technology such as a screen reader or voice activation to navigate the web, and try to understand it from their perspective. 

Once you understand the importance of accessibility, raise awareness and ensure your teams understand it as well. This first step will improve every step that follows. Remember to repeat this step often so your productivity levels remain high.

Step 2: Create an accessibility plan

person sitting at desk getting organizedYes, I know this is usually the first step others suggest. However, if you already have a positive and empathetic attitude, you don’t need me to explain why it is the better choice for a first step. Secondly, though, create a handy accessibility plan that uses terms the people in your organization understand. At minimum, your plan should include the following:

  • Written accessibility policy
  • List of responsible parties for each task
  • Accessibility budget
  • Initial and ongoing review process
  • User feedback
  • Remediation procedures
  • Reporting requirements

Step 3: Have confidence

lady showing arm muscle

The more you immerse yourself in accessible thinking and apply it to everything you develop, the more confidence you will have. This is key, especially for your organization’s accessibility leader. Your accessibility leader sets the bar for accessibility expectations and attitudes. If this is you, stand tall and leave no doubt about the importance of creating accessible content.

One of the best ways to develop confidence is to work directly with users of assistive technology. As you watch someone successfully use assistive technology with your content, your confidence will grow quickly. Also, seeking their input and perspective will add to empathy training and show exactly what needs to be done to ensure accessibility.

What about WCAG and all the acronyms?

Don’t worry about them! Oops! Did I say that? I don’t actually mean don’t ever worry about WCAG. Let me explain. WCAG stands for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. It offers an extensive list of suggested techniques to make digital content accessible. The keyword here is “suggested.” We can use any technique we prefer as long as the content is accessible to everyone. This is where the testing part of your accessibility plan comes into play. Test, test, and test again. 

I personally love WCAG. It takes a lot of the guesswork out of creating accessible content. Why rewrite the book when WCAG already tells us how to do it? While learning and understanding WCAG is a course in itself, it is one worth taking. Keep WCAG 2’s quick reference bookmarked in your browser. Yes, you may laugh a little at the term “quick” used in this reference, but all things accessible considered, it is the quickest WCAG reference you will find. 

But It’s Still Hard!

Yes, it is still hard. It’s still overwhelming. This is where we come to the rescue. Our developers, UI/UX designers, team leaders, basically everyone on our organizational chart from our CEO to our interns train, think, and develop accessibility. We take pride in creating accessible content and will ensure your organization’s content passes the accessibility tests you outlined in your accessibility plan. 

Set your accessibility goals now, and consistently raise the bar. Contact us to find out how we will ensure your content is accessible to everyone. 

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The Joy of Giving Accessible Documents

computer screen showing two hands holding a heart with the words give accessibility

Charles Dickens wrote, “No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.” As you seek ways to lighten the burdens of others during this season, have you considered giving the inclusive gift of accessibility? Accessibility opens doors to information so everyone enjoys the same experience. Imagine holding the door for someone whose hands are full of packages. Without your help, it would be difficult, or maybe even impossible, to open a door. Providing accessible documents allows you to “open doors” so your important information is accessible to everyone regardless of ability.

How do I give the gift of digital accessibility?

In order to give a gift as amazing as accessibility, we recommend creating a plan; and we’re here to help. Answer the questions below to decide where you need to start. We’ve also included answers for you so you can get started right away. The most important part of this process is to start now. Once you take the first step, you are opening your doors to inclusion, allowing everyone to receive the benefits of all you have to offer.

Have my document specialists completed accessibility training?

employees training in accessibility

It is vital that everyone creating and/or editing your documents are trained in accessibility. The training should include what document accessibility is, who it affects, why it matters, and detailed instructions on how to create accessible documents. 

If you can answer yes to this question, then you are probably familiar with how accessible (or inaccessible) your documents are. If your document authors already know how to create accessible documents, you are ready to test the accessibility of your documents. Note: If you are a Get ADA Docs client, your answer is yes. Our document specialists are trained in accessibility and have made sure the content in your documents is accessible.

If your document specialists (or you) are not trained in accessibility, you can pretty much count on the fact that your documents are not accessible. Accessibility is not an automatic door that opens with a simple push of a button. If this scenario applies to you, you can stop reading here and contact us before you are known as the Scrooge of the season!

If you don’t know if your document specialists have been trained, this is also a pretty good sign you do not have accessible documents. Creating accessible documents is an amazing skill successful document specialists do not hide. Because we know the importance of accessibility, we highlight it proudly. 

If you find yourself in need of training, Get ADA Docs offers digital accessibility training.* In addition to basic accessibility training, instructions on how to create accessible Microsoft Office and Adobe documents, and how to create captions with YouTube, our training portal lets you view and print reports to show who has completed the training. If you are a School Webmasters website management client, we provide free accessibility training for all your district staff. Visit our Website Accessibility Training [/Document-Accessibility-Training] page to learn more about our training options. We are sure you won’t find it for a better price anywhere else. If you do, let us know, and we will match it.

*If School Webmasters or Civic Webmasters manages your website, training is included free. Contact our director of accessibility for access to the training portal.

Have I tested my documents for accessibility?

A trained document accessibility auditor uses both manual and automated testing procedures to verify the accessibility of a document. Automated tools such as Adobe DC’s accessibility checker and Access for All’s PDF Accessibility Checker (PAC) are valuable tools for automated testing of PDF documents. Although these tools offer a general idea of the accessibility of your documents, remember that automated testing alone is not sufficient to determine accessibility. You will still need to perform manual testing to actually ensure accessibility. 

How do I fix accessibility errors?

The answer to this question depends on who manages your documents. If you are the sole provider of all your documents, the first step to correcting accessibility errors is training. Once you know how to create accessible documents, the easiest way to remediate errors is with the document’s original format. If it’s not possible to locate original documents, it is possible to remediate many documents in PDF format depending on the quality of the document. 

If you decide document remediation is not something you have the time or training to complete, we will do it for you. Document remediation is our specialty. You can have peace of mind knowing that our professional document remediation specialists are working around the clock to remediate your documents so you can provide your clients with the accessibility they deserve. 

Do I have a statement of accessibility available to my clients?

Whether you are in the process of remediating your documents, creating new documents, or have already verified accessibility, we recommend providing a statement of accessibility. The content of your statement depends on where you are in the process. If you are in the process of remediating your documents, state this so your clients know you care about their abilities and are working hard to provide inclusive services.

We also recommend providing a form (an accessible one, of course) so your viewers can easily contact you in the event they experience an accessibility barrier. This allows you to address and remediate any barriers as soon as possible. 

I’m not sure I have the budget for document remediation.

employee looking at calculator worried about accessibility budget

Paying for document accessibility may not be something you planned for and included in your company budget. However, failing to provide accessible documents may mean facing a budget item larger than your entire holiday budget because someone who can’t properly view your documents files a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights. In addition to the cost of remediation, consider the legal fees you will encounter should you receive a civil rights violation complaint like the many we are currently seeing filed in the federal court system. 

Think of your accessibility budget as your emergency savings account. If you plan correctly (with Get ADA Docs), you will never have to actually use it. Once we provide you with accessible documents, you can sit back and enjoy the holiday festivities without the threat of restricting access lingering overhead. You will feel comforted knowing you are doing everything in your power to provide digital accessibility.

Don’t be the belated gift giver. Give the gift of accessibility now!

girl giving a Christmas gift

We are ready to get started on your documents right away. Experience the joy of giving as you provide documents accessible to everyone. Contact us and learn how easy it is to not only provide accessibility but to also meet all the requirements of Section 508, the Americans with Disabilities Act, Section 504, and Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)!

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ADA Compliance: What is YOUR Plan?

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, over 56 million (19%) people in the United States have a disability. Are you sure your documents are reaching everyone, including those with disabilities? Imagine receiving an error every time you open a document. Frustrating? 

page not found 404 error on computer screen

This is the experience disabled people have every time they attempt to open an inaccessible document. 

Do you have a plan to confirm conformance to accessibility standards today and in the future so your users are not frustrated? Your company has a business plan, a financial plan, a marketing plan, an operational plan, a sales plan, and every other type of plan your human resources department tells you is necessary for a successful business. However, have they failed to recognize one of the most important plans your business needs to achieve complete success in today’s digital world? If you do not have a current accessibility plan, it is vital to create one today. 

If you ’re wondering why you need accessible documents, our Document Accessibility...But Why? article will help answer some of your questions. Learn how document accessibility is a win-win for everyone. Aside from the obvious benefits of inclusion and meeting legal requirements explained in the article, document accessibility also provides business benefits. The customers you empower through your accessible content may also share their experience. Whether by word of mouth to a friend or to the world through social media, the online impression you make will reap abundant benefits for your business. 

Are you ready to be an accessible business?

raised hands with hearts and plus signs

Accessibility is important—a legal requirement—and you are ready to be an accessible business. Create your plan, and make it a priority. The most important part of the plan is to start now. Here are a few tips to help you decide what to include in your plan:

  • Include accessibility planning in all steps of document creation.
  • Learn accessibility standards, and train your employees.
  • Audit current documents for accessibility barriers.
  • Remediate inaccessible documents. 

Let us help you perfect your plan. As your document accessibility partner, we will help you provide open access to the audience you may not even realize you are ignoring. 

In addition to providing documents everybody can read, we can also ensure your website will allow everyone access to the accessible documents you provide. We do it all! Check out our Civic Webmasters website to learn how you can provide a beautiful, user-friendly, accessible website today!


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Education Websites Beware!

The rules have changed written on clipboard

Are you an educational institution who thought they didn’t have to prioritize website accessibility? If so, you may want to think again. Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) updated its Case Processing Manual (CPM). In recent years, the OCR has carried a hefty load when it came to the number of complaints received for website accessibility. Most of these complaints came from a single civil rights activist. To help streamline the process of handling complaints, the March 2018 update to OCR’s CPM included section 108(t), which allowed the OCR to dismiss a complaint if it was part of a pattern of complaints. 

When the updated manual was initially released, almost 700 current OCR complaints were closed without further review. As a result, many schools let their breadth out—but maybe a little too quickly. We hope your school did not adopt this passive mindset not only because doing so would mean you are not providing equal opportunity for everyone, but also because the case processing rules have changed again.

Dismissing complaints filed by the same person as copycat lawsuits without first reviewing and verifying the validity of the complaint concerned many. Among those concerned were civil rights groups such as the NAACP, the National Federation of the Blind, and the Council for Parent Advocates whose attorneys filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Maryland. The lawsuit claims this new process would not protect the rights of those with disabilities. Whether because of the lawsuit or just due to further review, the November 2018 update to OCR’s CPM eliminates this new section allowing the dismissal of complaints without further review. (You can read the complete press release on the Department of Education’s website.)

What does this mean for my website?

Whether you are an educational institution or other business, if your website is not accessible, you are not only failing to provide everyone access to your content, but also you have always been at risk for legal action regardless of the copycat cases that OCR previously dismissed. The decision to dismiss complaints did not eliminate the law that requires your website to be accessible. The Americans with Disability Act (ADA) and Sections 504 and 508 of the U.S. Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, remain in affect. 

Who can file a website accessibility complaint?

laptop screen showing error message
  • Student
  • Teacher
  • Parent
  • Employee
  • Cousin Eddie in Kansas
  • Anyone

Yes, even cousin Eddie who does not live in your city or even your state can file an accessibility complaint against your website. Almost 700 cases that were previously dismissed due to the March 2018 update were filed by a civil rights activist that had no affiliation with the schools complained against. Many of these case previously dismissed are being reopened for investigation, so if your complaint is one previously closed, be ready to prove you took the extra time to ensure your website is accessible to everyone. Of course, if you are still scrambling to understand what you need to fix, contact us right away! We can provide you an accessible website much faster than you can read through and understand WCAG 2.0.

I get it—it’s the law. But why is website accessibility really important?

Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Kenneth Marcus said:

“Our top priority in the Office for Civil Rights is ensuring all students have equal access to education free from discrimination.” 

Every person should have equal opportunities for learning and living. Have you ever thought about how someone with a visual impairment such as color blindness is affected in life? Consider students who are color blind. What if their online assignment included only using color to select their answer (i.e., green box for yes or red box for no)? Even if they knew the answer but couldn’t see a difference between the answer boxes, they wouldn’t know which one to select. If their assignment had specified the answer by color and shape, they would have been able to complete the assignment as easily as every other student.

Let’s consider another scenario: When your right-handed instructor breaks his right arm, using the computer mouse to click through slides and worksheets with his right hand would be difficult if not impossible. In an accessible website, keyboard navigation is essential. This means everything is accessible using only a keyboard. If his web content is accessible, he can continue to teach, using the same technology he and his class are accustomed to by simply navigating through the material using only the keyboard—a task much easier to do with a non-dominant hand. Voice activation is another feature enhanced with accessibility features and would be another way to actively eliminate the need for both the mouse and the keyboard.

Accessibility and usability work best when both are applied. User experience is more intuitive when you achieve success in both areas. In addition to providing access to everyone, since mobile and touch screen technology have accessibility at its core, the accessibility features you implement  enhance the user experience on these technologies as well.

If you aren’t sure if your website is accessible, use our WCAG 2.0 checklist to help you decide. Download your free copy below. 

Website Accessibility Checklist: Use this handy checklist to ensure that your school website is accessible to everyone! Free Download

The content (text and graphics) directly on your web pages is not the only content you need to worry about. Remember to review your attached documents. Most websites include numerous PDF documents; be sure they are also accessible. Visit our Document Remediation page for more information about remediating your documents.

Is it possible to keep my website accessible every day?

Yes. Of course, that is if we manage your website for you. Knowing the importance of accessibility and the legal requirements to provide an accessible website is only the beginning. Our expert staff are all fully training on how to develop and maintain accessible websites. We eliminate the fear of having well-intentioned staff members throw your website out of compliance, creating accessibility barriers with every update. Let us make your website accessible and keep it that way day in and day out.

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Web Accessibility Affects Surfers

If you are like me, you dream of spending all your spare time at the beach surfing the waves until the sun goes down. Is surfing not your “thing?” Maybe watching the surfers carve a wave is more your style. If you prefer the mountains, maybe after a hard day’s work, you prefer to channel-surf to clear your mind instead. Regardless of where we choose to surf, we all do some type of surfing, and there is a good chance we occupy more of our time surfing the web than we do surfing anything else. Did you know web accessibility affects surfers? Crazy thought, right? Let’s talk about how it actually affects surfers, web surfers that is (aka everyone).

We are told time and again that our websites and documents must be accessible. We know users with disabilities will benefit from an accessible website. Aside from the obvious benefits of an accessible website, it’s also a violation of civil rights laws to deny equal access by not providing accessible content. So how does an inaccessible document or website actually affect disabled users? 

Recently, while visiting our friends at the Southern Association for the Visually Impaired (SAAVI), we talked about some of the ways blind users are affected by website accessibility. In the video below, SAAVI staff members Jeremy and Shannon share some insight on how many are affected by website accessibility. 

Of course, the examples SAAVI provides are just a few of the ways users are affecting by the accessibility of a website. To see someone actually be affected by web accessibility, check out the video below. The University of California, San Francisco shared an example of a blind user’s ability to surf the web. You will see how adding elements to a web page will either completely confuse someone such as a blind user or if added accessibly, will give them the same experience as a sighted user. 

Keyboard Accessibility

Although blind users may be the most common disabled user referred to when talking about website accessibility, there are many other types of disabilities affected by website accessibility. For example, someone with multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s disease may have limited or no ability to use a mouse. If your website, including your linked documents, are not keyboard accessible, finding what they need will be difficult if not impossible. However, accessibility features such as keyboard navigation affect more than just disabled users.

Have you ever tried to view a website or a PDF document on your mobile device but were not able to tap the submit button to submit a form you were attempting to complete? You may have tried to zoom in on the button, but found that the document would not zoom in enough for you to click the link. This would be a total wipe out. Zooming in to make the button accessible is actually an accessibility requirement. Not only are the website and document inaccessible to many disabled people but they are to a wide variety of other users as well.

Color Contrast

Color is another feature of accessibility that affects many users. I have a cousin who, because of his red hair, goes by the name “Red.” Ironically, Red is color blind and doesn’t see the color red. While talking about this disability with Red one day, he mentioned how confusing horizontal traffic lights are for him.

Normally, Red would know to stop at a stop light when the top light is lit. Since he can’t distinguish the color of the light, he has learned to compensate, using the location of the light. Can you imagine the anxiety someone like this must have while driving? And the occasional horizontal light just adds to an already unsettling experience.

Now let’s imagine Red is trying to win an all-expense paid trip to the beautiful island of Maui where he looks forward to avoiding traffic lights and spending his time surfing waves instead. In order to win this trip, all he has to do is complete a simple form and hit the submit button. He’s delighted to see the document allows him to fill it out online instead of having to purchase more ink for his printer that always seems to run out just when he needs it most just so he can complete the form. He completes the form with ease. The final step is to select the red button. Here are the buttons Red sees to choose from:

two gold buttons

Did you find the red button? If you are color blind like Red, you obviously did not. If you are not color blind, the buttons would appear like these:

one red button and one green button

How unfortunate it is for Red when he selects the button on the right! This may be an extreme example; however, the same concept applies when we use color in our documents and on our websites. Can all of your users access all of your content? Or are your colors hindering their ability to navigate and complete tasks effectively?

Be sure your documents are like a party wave that allows all users an opportunity to hang ten. 

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Document Accessibility...but Why?

Document accessibility ADA compliant certified by Get ADA DocsYou are told your documents need to be accessible. They need to meet Section 508 standards and WCAG guidelines. They need to be accessible to people with disabilities, including screen reader users. But why? There are many reasons, so we’re glad you asked! To help answer your question, consider the following: 

Does everyone really win?

We sure hope so! Sadly, this is not the case. When it comes to digital accessibility, not everyone can easily find and read everything they need to. Not everyone can read their email attachments, complete online applications, and find all the information that is available online. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 18.7% of non-institutionalized people had a disability in 20101. Also, the World Health Organization2 reports that about 15% of the world’s population has some form of disability. It is important, even vital, that we provide equal access to all our digital content, including our disabled community.

If we provide accessible HTML content on our websites but fail to provide our attachments accessibly, we are only partially meeting the needs of everyone. The only way for your organization to be on the winning team is to ensure your documents are available to everyone. To accomplish this, most government, private, and public organizations will first create a document with a word processing program such as Microsoft Word and then convert their document to a PDF (Portable Document Format). 

This process sounds easy, right? Don’t we simply select the "save as PDF" option and voila—accessible document? Unfortunately, more often than not, it’s not that easy. Here's why: 

  1. Accessibility features need to be added while we are creating our documents.
  2. There are a few final steps we need to perform in the PDF to completely make our document accessible
  3. Accessibility checks, including testing with assistive technologies such as screen readers, should be performed to verify accessibility.

Now you are thinking you will just keep your documents in the original format. That sounds great! Or does it? In order for all of your viewers to access your documents in their original format, they must all actually have the software your original document was created in so they can view it. So, you will now need to provide a link for them to purchase the software they need. (If you are providing a time-sensitive document, this is another place you may run into problems.) This is why we typically see documents attached in PDF format. Adobe’s Acrobat Reader3 is free for everyone, so your viewers will not have to purchase additional software to read your documents. 

Creating and confirming the accessibility of your documents is a win-win for everyone! Vince Lombardi said, “Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.” What is your habit? 

SEO

Did you know accessible PDF documents help with SEO (search engine optimization)? It’s important to note that just because a document is accessible, it doesn’t mean it is strategically optimized to be picked up by search engines. Likewise, just because you have the best SEO doesn’t mean your document (or website) is accessible. However, when a document is created according to accessibility guidelines, it uses recognizable text and proper semantics. Both SEO and accessibility depend on the structure to optimize functionality. By ensuring you are offering accessible content, you are increasing your SEO by allowing search engines to actually see your content. 

Inclusion

At the end of the day, accessibility is always the right thing to do. Inclusion is more than just encouraging someone to do something. Inclusion means making sure you have adequate policies and procedures in place to allow everyone equal access to everything you offer. This means you need to provide all online content accessibly. 

Once you do this, we recommend telling the world. Post an accessibility stamp on your website so everyone knows you are doing your part to include everyone. Hopefully, you will encourage others to do the same. 

It's the Law

As if the above reasons are not enough, there’s also a little thing called the law. Yes, providing equal access is the law. We often refer to Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504 if it's pertaining to education) when talking about legal requirements for accessibility. While Section 508 applies to federal government, there has also been other legislation passed by many states requiring IT accessibility. 

The U.S. General Services Administration lists resources and links to laws and policies for individual states. If you are not sure what laws you are required to comply to, we recommend doing a little research of your own or speaking with your attorney to ensure you are complying to the laws set forth in your state.

We Can Help

Now that you understand the importance of accessible documents, don’t delay. Put policies and procedures in place now. Begin remediation of current content and ensuring you are only using accessible content moving forward. Contact us today to get started.

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