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Q&A: Digital ADA Compliance: Legal Considerations Faced by Schools Webinar

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By Steve Williams
Feb 28, 2017 8:55:03 AM

As follow up to our "Digital ADA Compliance: Legal Considerations Faced by Schools" webinar presented by Andrea Gosfield of Griesing Law LLC, we have answered all of the questions that we weren't able to during the webinar. We have also posted the video archive for those that may be interested in viewing again or to share with others.

Here are the questions and answers we did not have time to get to during the SchoolNow Academy webinar:

What's the best way to advise district leaders that are concerned about dedicating the necessary resources to keep teacher pages and maintain compliance?

Steve’s answer: This is a difficult question to answer because of not knowing what website technology they are using or their level of understanding of ADA compliance. I recommend that these types of situations should be determined on a case by case basis starting with an assessment of the pages.

A solution may be assessing the pages and developing a plan to address the ADA compliance. You can add a link to a website ADA policy stating your plan and add a link to all of the pages to allow users to report problems. You can also provide basic training for the teachers to address the issues they can take care of such as ALT tags and removing videos that do not have CC and transcriptions.

Will you post the sources that specify compliance regulations that you mentioned when we were viewing the slide titled "Challenges concerning digital accessibility"? I did not have a chance to write the full names of those legal sources.

Andrea’s Answer: Certainly. School districts are subject to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. 794, and its corresponding regulations at 34 C.F.R. pt. 104. Also applicable is Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. 12131, Et seq., and its corresponding regulations at 28 C.F.R. pt. 35. These laws have been applied by OCR and the courts to hold school districts responsible for making online offerings, including websites, accessible.

Where do I find the OCR settlements or summaries of the OCR settlements for the 7 states and 1 territory?

Andrea’s Answer: Generally, OCR settlements concerning digital accessibility in schools, see "Case Resolutions Regarding Disability Discrimination". Be advised, this link is to the portion of the OCR website that contains information on general disability OCR complaints and resolutions in schools, so there will be links to accessibility complaints that are not technology-related, as well as those that are.  Specifically, the OCR settlements dealing with digital accessibility for the 7 states and 1 territory, see "Settlements Reached in Seven States, One Territory to Ensure Website Accessibility for People with Disabilities". If you scroll toward the bottom of the page, you will find links to each separate resolution letter and resolution agreement entered into by the 7 states and 1 territory.

Is there any recommendation for free ADA compliance website checks? I have used wave.webaim.org and found success with it, should I consider that a good and worthwhile website to use for this checking?

Steve’s answer: Based on the website checkers I've used, I am a fan of the WAVE Chrome Extension that allows you to scan the web page you are currently on. While it does not catch everything required for the WCAG 2.0 AA requirements, it does do a pretty nice job and provides a visual representation of the errors on the page so you can fix the issues and run the checker again to confirm. I've listed the options below.

How can you analyze or check your website for accessibility?

Steve’s answer: To properly check your website for accessibility based on the WCAG 2.0 AA standard, you'll be required to run a report from an accessibility software for the entire website and you'll have to conduct a human audit. The accessibility software will not report many of the requirements such as PDF optimization, video CC/transcriptions, color/contract and many other types of requirements.

How do you audit your district's website for ADA compliance? What resources can one use?

Steve’s answer: An audit can be conducted by a professional service such as WebAIM or can be done in-house assuming you have the proper training. As I stated in the prior question, you can use an accessibility software to check a majority of issues but, you will need to review each and every page by hand to determine if the website meets WCAG 2.0 AA standards. I recommend reviewing "WebAIM's WCAG 2.0 Checklist" to become more familiar with the requirements.

Is there a checklist that schools/districts can use to make sure their websites are compliant?

Steve’s answer: I recommend reviewing "WebAIM's WCAG 2.0 Checklist" or "Wuhcag's WCAG 2.0 checklist Level A (Beginner)".

How does this apply to external websites that teachers use to post assignments (external to our district website)? For example, Schoology, blogs where teachers post assignments, etc.

Andrea’s Answer: Although we haven’t seen this issue play out in OCR resolution agreements or in litigation in the K-12 space, it is advisable that if teachers are permitted to provide and disseminate course content via separate, external websites that are not controlled by the school district, that the school district, at a minimum, create policies, procedures, and training that set forth accessibility requirements for the content and the external teacher websites. Another option is for school districts to declare that all teacher websites are “closed forums” that will be addressed, monitored, revised and controlled, from an accessibility standpoint, by the school district. This means that although the school district may permit the teachers to be “webmasters” in this “closed forum” environment, the school district retains the ultimate right to assess and change the content or website format to meet accessibility standards.

Is the law specific to Web sites or does it also apply to a district's social media channels?

Jared’s answer: Social media is often a primary mechanism for communication and information dissemination for schools. Even though schools cannot control the accessibility of such platforms, this does not mean that they are exempt from needing to ensure that content delivered via these platforms be accessible.

Seems that the more you offer online the more you are subject to standards. For a small school district, is there a requirement to meet a minimum online presence at all?

Steve’s answer: It is recommended not to allow accessibility requirements change your focus on making your website a key part in sharing information for the school district. While this requires a change in how you manage information, the demand to access that information through your website has not changed. A well-organized website for a school district can be the most efficient and effective way to share information with your community, therefore, by limiting the information you share through the website you will impact parents, students, faculty, staff and the entire school community.

Are "Skip Navigation" links a requirement or just a recommendation?

Steve’s answer: There is a gray area of determining if this is a requirement or recommendation based on how you interpret "Guideline 2.4 Navigable: Provide ways to help users navigate, find content, and determine where they are" of the WCAG 2.0 standard. The skip navigation is an option that will be greatly appreciated for those using screen readers and other assistive software as it makes it much more efficient to navigate around the website.

I was on the LA Unified School site don't see the request the public input page or information

Andrea’s Answer: The Los Angeles Unified School District’s website provides the following its commitment to accessibility, and public input meetings about the same. Additionally, the Los Angeles Unified School District’s (LAUSD) website provides contact information about how members of the public can request access, or let the school district know about accessibility issues they may encounter. Uniform Complaint Procedures (UCP) provides the public with information on how to file a formal accessibility grievance with the LAUSD.

What must be included in a video transcript in order to be fully compliant?

Steve’s answer: In short, videos must not set-up to autoplay, no blinking content, closed-captioning and a link to a full transcript of the content. Additional information can be found at "Creating Accessible Videos" from the University of Washington.

Do school board meetings that are video recorded and posted on the web have to be close captioned?

Steve’s answer: Videos of the board meeting is the primary mechanism for communication and information dissemination for the public, therefore, it is required to meet the accessibility standards

If your school is using a CMS your software vendor is a good place to start ... what level of WCAG compliance are they at?

Steve’s answer: Yes. The CMS provider is a good place to start. You should ask them the following:

  • Does the CMS meet WCAG 2.0 AA requirements?
  • Can you provide error reporting?
  • If we provide a third party audit, can you provide the fixes outside our capabilities in the system?
  • Do you have a roadmap of feature enhancements related to ADA compliance?


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Topics: Website accessibility School Districts

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About the author

As co-founder of Campus Suite, Steve believes behind every great school is great communication. His tech savvy and passion for design fuel his desire to help administrators understand, embrace and seize the power of web communications.