The list below compiles some common questions and answers about accessibility in technology. Questions below are linked to answers in the page.
Accessibility in technology means that people with different abilities and disabilities can use technology resources, like websites, software, or information kiosks. Accessible technology resources can be used with or without assistive technology devices. In all cases, people with disabilities should be able to use accessible technology resources more independently and with substantially equivalent ease of use as people without disabilities.
Accessible technology resources allow for different kinds of interactions that people have with them. Just because someone has a disability does not mean that he or she cannot use the web. But inaccessible technology can stop someone with a disability from using that piece of inaccessible technology.
Both the current and draft versions of Section 508 of the federal Rehabilitation Act include a section that details "functional performance criteria". These criteria do a good job of describing the different interactions that someone with a disability might have with a piece of web content. The categories in the draft Section 508 language are:
While the above categories may not capture all aspects of different interactions with technology, each one can help designers, developers and content authors to better understand accessibility in technology. The functional performance criteria are in Chapter 3 of the draft Section 508 standards.
For example, someone who is blind should be able to use your website or web application. They might use screen reading software or a refreshable Braille display to do this. Your website or web application needs to provide the information to the screen reader or Braille display that the person using that technology needs.
To evaluate accessibility you need a few tools and techniques, plus an understanding of at least one set of accessibility standards. Some of the things that you test for include:
Websites, web pages, documents like Microsoft Word or PowerPoint, ATMs, informational kiosks and point of sale terminals are all examples of technology resources that need to be accessible. If humans are supposed to use it, then more than likely it should be accessible.
Both the federal Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) are the largest federal civil rights laws that protect people with disabilities from discrimination based on disability.
Oklahoma ABLE Tech has a series of fact sheets on the Rehabilitation Act and the ADA (fact sheets are near the bottom of the page).
Yes. Oklahoma’s Electronic and Information Technology Accessibility (EITA) law largely mirrors Section 508 of the federal Rehabilitation Act. Like Section 508, EITA is procurement law that requires state agencies, state higher education institutions and the Career and Technical system to purchase, use and create accessible technology resources. EITA provides a set of standards that the covered entities can use to determine when a technology resource is or is not accessible.
Oklahoma breaks down its standards into the following categories, again mirroring Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act:
The law also establishes the Accessibility Compliance Representative (ACR) role within state agencies and it establishes the EITA Advisory Council.
Accessibility skills are like any other skillset in that a person must work to build the skillset. As you learn techniques and tools that help you to make digital material accessible you will find that building accessibility into your material becomes easier and quicker.
Tools do play a role in answering this question, too. In general, most tools that we use to create websites and non-web content like PDF documents makes it relatively easy to create accessible sites and content. Web application developers and designers need to be sure that interactive elements are accessible. But, some of the tools do not have the best support for creating accessible environments. Third party code libraries may not have much, if any support for accessible interactions built in. Or, learning or content management systems may not support content authors in making accessible material. Finally, more complex interactions or content will require more effort to make them accessible.
The precise answer depends on a number of variables. However, it is very important to remember that accessibility in technology is a matter of civil rights. The Americans with Disabilities Act and the federal Rehabilitation Act, as well as domain specific laws such as the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), all require entities to avoid discriminating against people with disabilities. For the public sector it is clear that this includes making and using accessible technology resources.
There is still some question about whether private sector entities that only exist on the web need to be accessible. District courts in the United States have come to different conclusions about whether or not web-only entities are “places of public accommodation”, which is a concept from Title III of the ADA. But the public sector and those involved in supporting the state’s Workforce do have more clear guidance that says that technology must be accessible.
The Department of Justice, Department of Education and Department of Labor have all provided guidance about accessible technology. This comes in the form of Dear Colleague letters that aim at specific audiences, such as higher education decision makers. It also comes in the form of settlement agreements that come out of complaints or lawsuits that allege digital discrimination. At the federal level, settlement agreements point us to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 standards at the AA level.
In Oklahoma, the Electronic and Information Technology Accessibility law gives state agencies, higher education institutions and the Career and Technical System specific guidance and a set of standards. Oklahoma’s standards are based on Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act as it read in 2005.
This depends on the capacity within your entity to be flexible with respect to the standards. For state and public entities in Oklahoma, Oklahoma’s Electronic and Information Technology Accessibility (EITA) standards may be the best fit. However, that is not to say that the more current Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 are not acceptable. In fact, EITA has a clause that states:
Nothing in these standards is intended to prevent the use of designs or technologies as alternatives to those prescribed in these standards provided they result in substantially equivalent or greater access to and use of a product for people with disabilities.
Agencies may accept IT offered by vendors, which uses designs or technologies that do not meet the applicable technical provisions, but provide substantially equivalent or greater access to and use of a product for people with disabilities. This is referred to as "equivalent facilitation."
Equivalent facilitation is not an exception or variance from the requirement to provide comparable access. Rather, it is recognition that technologies may be developed or used in ways not envisioned by the technical provisions of this document but still result in the same or better functional access. Functional outcome – not form – is the key to evaluating whether a technology results in "substantially equivalent or greater access."
According to guidance from both the Department of Justice and the Department of Education, the WCAG 2.0 standards are appropriate, at the AA level. This means that both A and AA should be your goal if you choose this standard set. This is also the standard set written into the draft Section 508 language and into draft Rules that will govern technology accessibility under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The standards do vary, but both aim to do the same thing: help you to create, acquire and use more accessible technology.
The ADA states that it is illegal to discriminate against people with disabilities, on the basis of disability, in the following areas:
The ADA also requires effective communication between covered entities and their constituents, customers and users.
The ADA has long provided Rules that govern accessibility in the built environment for covered entities. But it does not currently provide Rules that govern accessibility in technology.
This does not mean that technology is not included in providing employment, programs, services or activities in either the public or private sectors, though. And technology is often one of, or the, primary way that entities communicate with people.
The broad protection of the ADA applies to technology when it is used as mentioned above. Especially in the public sector.
Rulemaking is underway to create more specific guidance about what should be accessible and which standard set to use. Until that time, existing guidance from the Department of Justice, Department of Education and the Department of Labor is helpful. In addition, other laws such as the updated Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act provide us with insight into how to approach accessible technology.
In the private sector, there are competing court decisions about whether or not a private, online-only business is a “place of public accommodation” under the ADA.
At this time, the Department of Justice believes that draft Rules for the public sector may be released this year, though the process has slowed down. Rules for the private sector are not expected until 2018 at earliest.
If we publish a fully accessibility compliant document, can we publish an alternate version with the same functionality using Word, Excel or other programs, but which is not fully compliant, so that we can serve the needs of those who regularly use a format other than that of our compliant document?
Agencies may publish an alternate version with the same functionality to serve their mission and functional needs of those who require a format other than HTML. If an agency is serving a customer who prefers an excel table over HTML version, the agency may need to offer the data/information in the excel format in order to meet their mission and goals serving their customers. However, the agency is obligated to provide the information accessibly. If the agency decides to provide a compliant version in another way and there are two documents with the same information on the Web, then a reference to Oklahoma’s IT Accessibility Standard for Web-Based Intranet and Internet Information and Applications Standard K provides guiding language for this situation: “a text-only page, with equivalent information or functionality, shall be provided to make a Web site comply with provisions of these standards when compliance cannot be accomplished in any other way. The content of the text only page shall be updated whenever the primary page changes. The non-accessible version must be as accessible as possible.” The key sentence is: “the non-accessible version must be as accessible as possible.”
62 OS. 34.28 defines Undue Burden as significant difficulty or expense, including, but not limited to, difficulty or expense associated with technical feasibility. Litigation seems to imply that expense is not a viable “undue burden” in a large agency. Give an example of undue burden as relates to difficulty associated with technical feasibility?
ABLE Tech is not aware of any successful undue burden claims. ABLE Tech will provide answer with the knowledge of what we do know about proving undue burden given the history of the definition, legislation, and case law.
Section 508 federal standards 1194.4, Definition, Undue burden. Undue burden means significant difficulty or expense. In determining whether an action would result in an undue burden, an agency shall consider all agency resources available to the program or component for which the product is being developed, procured, maintained, or used.
Oklahoma Standards, Definition, Undue Burden. Significant difficulty or expense, including, but not limited to, difficulty or expense associated with technical feasibility.
The term is based on case law. The legislative history of the ADA states that the term “undue burden” is derived from Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the regulations there under, and is analogous to the term “undue hardship” in Title I of the ADA. The Access Board (charged with creating the 508 standards) did not include “technical feasibility” as a factor within the definition since the original definition is based on case law but “technical feasibility” was not established by case law or in existing regulations under Section 504. The Board recognized that undue burden is determined on a case-by-case basis and that factors such as technical feasibility may not apply in every determination.
The Board also noted that available financial resources vary greatly from one agency to another, and what constitutes an undue burden for a smaller agency may not be an undue burden for another, larger agency having more resources to commit to a particular procurement. It is inappropriate for the Board to assess a set percentage for the increased cost of a product that would be considered an undue burden in every case.
Each EIT product procured would necessarily be determined on a case-by-case basis. Undue burden analysis is applied on a provision by provision basis. A separate undue burden analysis must be conducted and be documented for each applicable provision. Undue burden is a difficult threshold to meet.