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2018 Digital Accessibility Trends Q&A and Webinar Resources

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Written by: Kristin Heineman

Access Webinar ResourcesLevel Access CEO and founder Tim Springer and Chief Accessibility Officer Jonathan Avila hosted our popular Digital Accessibility Trends webinar for 2018 last Tuesday, January 23rd.

There were a few questions during the webinar that they did not have time to address, so they have provided answers in this post. For more information, you can access the webinar slides, transcript, and recorded presentation here: 2018 Digital Accessibility Trends Webinar Resources.

Webinar Q&A

Q: What accessibilities implications do you see with VR?

In terms of the use of VR, we think there are potential a variety of therapeutic and assistive technology options for people with disabilities. It’s a fertile platform with great potential benefits for users with disabilities. In terms of the underlying accessibility of the platform, there will be challenges to solve with multi-modal use (physical controls, voice, spatial) and multi-sensory perception mechanisms. At the same time, these multi-modal methods of interaction provide flexibility to support what works best for an individual. So rich with promise, but more work must be done.

Q: Why not WCAG 2.0 AAA?

Practically, the market has largely deemed AAA as “aspirational” and most people view it as practically unattainable for most modern sites. WCAG documentation provided by the W3C indicates that level AAA criteria may not be achievable in all situations. For example, a journal article on physics may not be able to be written at a reading level required under level AAA. Organizations can choose to adopt specific criteria and a number of these by themselves can be achieved. As technology and computer learning evolve, many of the criteria may be solved through new technology.

Q: Do you have any information on DOE OCR enforcement efforts?

Minimal at this point. The Department of Education Office of Civil Rights in the current administration has been limited in publishing data. Inferences from public data sources and our qualitative experience in the market, however, do show ongoing enforcement. Public articles have indicated that they will review complaints and attempt to resolve issues found, but they won’t be digging beyond the specifics of the complaints to look for additional issues.

Q: Are academic lawsuits so low because of the OCR handling it instead?

That’s our basic thesis, yes. We do continue to see lawsuits over other academic-related areas such as organizations that provide training for the Bar Exam.

Q: What about the Education industry for ADA law suits? 

Per the above, while there are some lawsuits, our thesis is most of these complaints are occurring via the OCR mechanism.

Q: Why are so few lawsuits against the financial sector?

We think that’s mostly an artifact of the fact that most of these suits settle before being filed. I.e. there is a significant amount of activity but not that much that progresses to lawsuits. Historically the financial sector has been addressing accessibility for some time, starting with the ATM accessibility requirements in the Americans with Disabilities Act, and many financial organizations followed physical accessibility up with accessible online systems.

Q: Any recommendations for working with online art courses, with tons of art images, that need a ton of alternative text?

Unfortunately, no general recommendations – we’d probably have to dig into the specifics of the course. In terms of providing the actual content for the alt text, though, that is something you can crowd-source if desired. Alternative text would need to be written based on the purpose of including the image. While art history may have more clear interpretations of art – art is subjective and open to an individual’s perception and thus descriptions may be needed without bias to help people determine their own interpretation of the art. There is some promise in computer learning that may be able to help describe images – Facebook is currently using this type of computer learning technology. In addition, tactile equivalents for some art can be provided or created to allow users to experience the art by touch.

Q: How did the Net Neutrality kill affect digital accessibility?

Basically, it had the effect of shifting the burden of making some services related to broadband internet from “achievable” – which is the burden under the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA) – to “readily achievable” – which is the prior burden under Section 255 of the Communications Act. For the most part this only affects a small set of product features and overall is expected to have minimal impact on accessibility.

Q: Where can we find more information on the Accessibility Object Model? 

More information on the accessibility object model can be found at https://github.com/WICG/aom

Q: What about OS apps (Android, iOS, MacOS): which criteria are we supposed to evaluate, the OS standards or WCAG 2.0?

WCAG is technology neutral and should be used to evaluate both native mobile apps and mobile web apps. WCAG 2.1 has additional criteria to address issues with touch screens and small screen devices. The guidelines from platform providers are also a great place to look and have some overlap with WCAG but likely don’t cover all of the needs covered by WCAG. Similarly, the guidelines may have some additional criteria or recommendations that are not present in WCAG 2.0. For example, platform guidelines might call out specific verbiage to use in accessible names that WCAG does not dictate.

Q: Is HTML Validator sufficient to test for 508 compliances?

HTML validation does not sufficiently address evaluation for accessibility. HTML validation may address some automated issues but is generally limited to syntax and basic semantic structures like nesting. Accessibility needs touch on a much larger set of content types that must be automatically tested and manually tested to determine compliance.

Q: What one must do to ensure web pages are 508 compliance?

At Level Access, we have developed a methodology for auditing content such as web pages for Section 508 and WCAG compliance. Our methodology includes choosing a representative sample of pages or portions of pages (we call the modules) and use cases (core tasks within the system). The modules are tested with both automated tools and manual tests and evaluated to make sure the techniques used are accessibility supported. In addition, use case testing is performed by users with disabilities on the core tasks within the system. We then work with customers to make sure the found issues are addressed correctly and verified. Compliance is an ongoing task that must be monitored over time and is best supported by implementing accessibility into the software development lifecycle.

Q: Is there a program that works for students who are blind and writing code for visual diagrams?

We don’t have any specific resources to point out without looking into this question further. SVG code can be created by hand to create visual materials but there would likely need to be some model to help the user present the content visually formatted without overlap and in a visually appealing way. There likely are libraries that exist that may do this, but I am not currently immersed in that area.

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