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NetCentric Accessibility Newsletter: Aug 3, 2015

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Welcome to the August issue of the CommonLook Accessibility Newsletter!  This month, we join the rest of the nation in celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which officially took place on July 26th.  One of the most comprehensive civil rights bills in the history of our country, our feature article highlights this momentous anniversary occasion and reminds us that, although we still have great strides to make, the ADA has cleared many obstacles to each person’s right to equal independence.

We also shine a light on the Finance industry and the intrinsic relationship it has with document accessibility in today’s digital age.

We spent some time with Salt Lake Community College to learn how the home of Utah’s most diverse student body is serving its students’ accessibility needs.

Finally, we’re excited to share with you the review of our remediation tool, CommonLook PDF GlobalAccess, from WebAIM, a non-profit organization based at the Center for Persons with Disabilities at Utah State University.  Curious to know what others are saying about GlobalAccess? Read on for the full review from WebAIM.

As always, we welcome your suggestions for upcoming topics and would like to know what you think of NetCentric’s CommonLook Accessibility Newsletter.  Use this link to share your comments or story ideas with the CommonLook Accessibility Newsletter staff.

We Hope You Enjoy!

 NetCentric Technologies

As The ADA Turns 25 The Celebration Extends To The Internet

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The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law 25 years ago on July 26, 1990 by President George H. W. Bush. While the anniversary date has passed, the celebration continues throughout the year. See the ADA Anniversary toolkit provided by the Americans With Disabilities Act National Network.

It’s even more fitting to reflect upon the ADA as its application has come to extend beyond its traditional scope of public accommodations and physical access to include accessibility and non-discrimination on the Internet.

Now in addition to avoiding counters that are too high, aisles that are too narrow, and entrances that are not wheelchair accessible, the ADA stipulates that websites that offer public accommodation must be accessible to people with disabilities.

The ADA is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation and all public and private places that are open to the general public. There are five sections, referred to in the law as “titles,” that detail the rights of the approximately 54 million Americans with disabilities.

  • Title I: Employment
  • Title II: Public Entities (and Public Transportation)
  • Title III: Public Accommodations and Commercial Facilities
  • Title IV: Telecommunications
  • Title V: Miscellaneous Provisions

It impacts employers, schools, businesses and transportation providers in the public and private sectors. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), the main federal agency that enforces the ADA, has a comprehensive frequently asked questions section that can help anyone looking to understand the nature of this important civil rights law.

While the Section 508 Refresh is getting a lot of attention these days, the Department of Justice issued an Advanced Notice of Propose Rulemaking in 2010 indicating revising Title III of the ADA to include the Internet. It was anticipated that this rule would finally be in effect in time for the 25th Anniversary.

The National Law Review, in a post dated June 5, 2015, indicates the Department of Justice will be further delayed in releasing  the proposed website accessibility regulations for public accommodations under Title III of the ADA.

The rule may be delayed, but, as noted by attorney Casey C. Sullivan on the FindLaw.com blog, enforcement is in effect. Over the past year, the DOJ has taken numerous enforcement actions against governments and businesses that fail to make their websites accessible to those with disabilities. The Department has taken issue with websites for city job listings, public museums, grocery delivery services, and county courts.

In the DOJ’s view, the ADA already applies to the Internet. In a series of settlements over the past year, the DOJ has repeatedly referenced WCAG 2.0 AA as an “industry guideline” and an “industry standard,” making it clear that it considers these accessibility guidelines to be applicable now.

Despite the lack of formal regulations, companies seeking to assess the accessibility of their websites do have guidelines to look to that have obtained near-universal support.  Regulatory efforts to date (e.g., this past winter’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to revise and update Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act), recent settlements with DOJ and state regulators, and testimony during various stages of recent rulemaking efforts all point to the World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (at the Level A and AA) as the appropriate measure of an accessible website.

Visit the ADA Legacy Project for more information on the 25th Anniversary Celebration of the Americans With Disabilities Act.

WebAIM Reviews CommonLook PDF GlobalAccess

WebAIM has written a review of  NetCentric’s CommonLook PDF GlobalAccess. WebAIM is a non-profit organization based at the Center for Persons with Disabilities at Utah State University.  Their stated mission is to expand the potential of the web for people with disabilities by providing the knowledge, technical skills, tools, organizational leadership strategies, and vision that empower organizations to make their own content accessible to people with disabilities.

The WebAIM Review of CommonLook PDF GlobalAccess provides an impartial overview of the product. The article includes a number of screen shots and analyzes CommonLook PDF GlobalAccess in terms of its reporting and repair abilities, notable features, and ends with a summary of the product.

If you’re interested in what others have to say about CommonLook PDF GlobalAccess, take a moment to read WebAIM’s review to learn more.

Financial Services and Online Accessibility

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On Dec. 11, 2013, the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts filed a complaint in intervention in the lawsuit National Federal of the Blind (NFB) et al. v. HRB Digital LLC et al. to enforce Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (see related item regarding 25th Anniversary of the ADA).

This was a significant event in accessibility and the successful application of Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act to the website of a private sector enterprise. The website was considered to be a public accommodation and commercial facility. The website could run afoul of Title III in the same manner that the local H&R Block tax preparation office could be found to be inaccessible.

The complaint alleged that the tax preparation service failed to code its website in a manner that would make it accessible to individuals who have vision, hearing, and physical disabilities.

The suit resulted in an agreement, referred to as a Consent Decree, between H&R Block and the plaintiffs.

What are the broader implications for the Financial Services industry? Your online presence must be just as accessible as your branch offices and ATM machines. Any electronic information and statements available from the website – whether HTML, PDF, Word or other format – should conform to WCAG 2.0 AA.

What other measures can a financial services company take? One strategy could be to implement the provisions of another firm’s consent decree voluntarily and avoid the financial penalties and cost of litigation.

Under the terms of the five year decree, H&R Block’s website, tax filing utility, and mobile apps had to conform to:

  • Level AA Success Criteria of the WCAG 2.0.
  • According to the decree, the H&R Block website will be accessible for the start of the tax filing term on Jan. 1, 2015, with additional accessibility deadlines over the following years of the decree.
  • Additionally, HRB Digital and HRB Tax Group have agreed to:
    • appoint a skilled web accessibility coordinator who will report to H&R Block’s enterprise Chief Information Officer;
    • adopt a web accessibility policy; initiate training on accessible design for its web content personnel;
    • evaluate employee and contractor performance based on successful web access programming;
    • conduct regular automated and user group testing; and
    • hire an approved outside consultant to prepare annual independent evaluations of Block’s online accessibility.
    • H&R Block was to pay $45,000 to the two individual plaintiffs, and a $55,000 civil penalty.

NetCentric Technologies and its CommonLook brand of products and services make it possible for financial services firms and all manner of public and private sector enterprises to produce ADA compliant content for websites and internal document production and distribution.

Accessibility Takes Center Stage At The State of Utah’s Most Diverse Student Body 

SLCCLogo

Salt Lake Community College is the largest college in the state of Utah, serving more than 60,000 students.  Nestled in the state’s most populous city of – you guessed it – Salt Lake City, the college is home to the state’s most diverse student body, enrolled in courses across 10 different campuses and through online classes, as well.

Such a large, diverse student population naturally implies it’s a campus with diverse attributes. Home to students of all ages, with varying interests, and differing needs in the classroom. So, it’s fitting that the school is also at the forefront of accessibility in the state, having initiated and formed a Universal Access Committee comprised of about 30 members from different areas of the college to serve the college’s disabled students to the best of its ability.

A key member of the Universal Access Committee is Svetlana O’Meara, Webmaster for Salt Lake Community College (SLCC).  In her role, O’Meara governs SLCC’s website content, and consequently, its web accessibility.

“The Committee drives accessibility initiatives at SLCC and is always in search of new resources that help raise accessibility awareness, provide training, and resources,” says O’Meara.

“The PDF files, being a large part of the web content, are a big concern for us,” she explains, making reference to the fact that her role overseeing web accessibility entails not just the HTML side of things, but the thousands of electronic documents living on the site, as well.

“While our web team can ensure accessibility of the web page templates, it is much harder to manage the content that gets input onto the web server: the documents are not necessarily created by the trained web content contributors.”

As the challenge of tackling web accessibility is a two-pronged approach, including both HTML and PDF, O’Meara and her team utilize more than one working solution. “We are using a web governance software to check web pages and PDF accessibility, broken links, and misspellings,” says O’Meara.  “But this tool doesn’t provide a remediation solution.”

The answer to the remediation problem? O’Meara and her team found their solution in NetCentric’s CommonLook PDF GlobalAccess tool.

“We haven’t found any comparable remediation software,” says O’Meara. “It is a very comprehensive software that helps remediate PDF files quickly.”

In addition to use of the CommonLook PDF GlobalAccess tool for SLCC’s remediation needs, O’Meara and others attended CommonLook Training classes. “We found that Training classes are essential for the software users,” says O’Meara.  “Anyone who purchases the license should plan on also purchasing at least one training section.”

The Universal Access Committee at SLCC has been vital in evangelizing the importance of accessibility on campus and the availability of resources for those who need assistance.  The Committee supported the adoption of the CommonLook PDF GlobalAccess tool on campus in order to provide resources and tools to those departments that need them.  It is a measured process, one that O’Meara acknowledges will take time.

“Implementing the workflow has not been a fast or easy process,” she says. “Remediation takes more time, effort, and the learning curve is not easy. The Committee’s great achievement [will be] to help the college community recognize that the college’s resources have to be available to everyone, and to understand how people with disabilities access the resources.”

The challenges SLCC faces will resonate with anyone working in the field of higher education.  While the process is an ongoing one, the fact that the college has just approved a full-time Universal Accessibility Coordinator position is indicative of where the school’s priorities lie.  “Our hope is that the new position will shift the culture and that accessibility will become a new norm for the College,” says O’Meara.

In addition to use of the CommonLook PDF GlobalAccess tool for SLCC’s remediation needs, O’Meara and others attended CommonLook Training classes. “We found that Training classes are essential for the software users,” says O’Meara.  “Anyone who purchases the license should plan on also purchasing at least one training section.”

More Information on Our Remediation or Training Services

 

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