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This post includes the responses from Tim Springer – Level Access’s CEO – and Steve Jones – VP of Output Transformation Division at OpenText – to all of the questions posed in last week’s webinar: Trends in Digital Accessibility and Electronic Documents.  For more information on this topic, you can access the webinar slides, transcript, and recorded presentation at https://www.levelaccess.com/resources/trends-digital-accessibility-electronic-documents/.

Can the new Presidential administration block or slow the adoption of the Section 508 Refresh regulations?

Yes, the new administration could block or slow the adoption of the Section 508 Refresh regulations. The most likely scenario in which that occurs is that the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) does not complete their Executive Order 12866 review of the Section 508 Refresh prior to the new administration taking over. Currently OIRA is reviewing the Section 508 Refresh and, by Executive Order, needs to complete this review in 90 days. If this review is completed in 90 days, it would be completed on January 22, 2017 – two days after President-Elect Trump is sworn into office. If this review is completed in less than 90 days, then The Access Board may publish it prior to the new administration taking over.

With all that noted, we view any material delay or slowdown in the Section 508 Refresh as unlikely. As a regulation that solely applies to the U.S. Federal government, it doesn’t directly apply to businesses. This would seemingly cause it to fall into the category of regulation that the new administration is not inherently adverse to.

Can you give us an example of one of these high-profile lawsuits?

We provide a list of a variety of cases on our Americans with Disabilities Act page on our website.

Who are the law suits against? Are there particular industries or markets?

The lawsuits span a wide variety of industries and defendants. Initially we have seen the litigation target larger organizations that operate both websites and physical locations. This includes the sites of banks, online retailers, restaurants, hotels, travel providers and other physical location service providers.

How much of this litigation is actually a sincere effort to assist the users with disabilities versus profiteering?

We expect that depends largely on your point of view. Some argue against the suits as not being specific to individuals that have actual complaints with specific accessibility issues. Some argue for the suits as broadly enforcing civil rights. Whatever the view, we do see the trend towards increased digital litigation as growing and enduring – it’s unlikely to go anywhere anytime soon.

Without a well-defined regulatory structure, who do you turn to if you want to prevent litigation? Without firm rules, how do you protect your organization against frivolous suits?

Our experience is that a proactive and robust digital accessibility program will significantly mitigate risk. There are a variety of methods we use to structure and quantify success for such programs and reduction of risk is central to most of them. At the biggest picture level, Level Access’s experience is that most litigation tends to turn on actual, verifiable access issues. If an organization proactively addresses those issues they are, in our experience, likely to materially decrease their risk.

Can you talk about risk for American Colleges & Universities?

Colleges and Universities tend to split into two relatively clear categories. Public colleges and universities face a slightly higher risk profile as they often fall under ADA Title II requirements and a mix of Federal, State and Local secondary laws. Private colleges and universities face a slightly lower risk profile as they often fall under ADA Title III solely. That noted, we don’t see a material difference in the risk profile – just different governing laws and regulations.

Holistically colleges and universities tend to be “high risk” for digital accessibility issues. Access to education is a key tenet of most accessibility civil rights laws and that is wholly the case in the United States. So we work with a largely number of colleges and universities that see this as a material, ongoing and enduring risk.

Do you know anything about the Higher Education and Accessible Documents?

Yes – lots! Generally, speaking in Higher Education we see a mix of ad-hoc, high volume and forms for electronic documents. Ad-hoc documents, in particular, are often widely created and deployed into learning management systems without any real degree to central control. (We call this the “adjunct professor problem” at Level Access.) Our general starting point for a solution to this is to deploy Access Analytics to the relevant sites to start profiling what documents are out there, how often they are used, and what the accessibility issues are.

So, you’re saying, if you run a website, you “HAVE” to back it up on physical documents at cost to you and send it to “ANYONE” who requests it?

Not exactly. Certain accessibility laws – ADA notably – do require that you make alternative format documents available on request. There are a variety of different methods to do that. The individual site and context would need to be analyzed for a specific strategy.

There is a lot of coverage on PDF and HTML, what about the adoption of epub3?

To drastically and reasonably oversimplify – epub3 faces the same accessibility requirements as PDF and HTML. We didn’t cover it in the presentation due to time constraints – not due to it being special in any fashion.

Many websites are getting gamified. Can you please speak to how such sites can be addressed?

Gamified websites would still be covered.

Is there a solution that addresses real-time flash content with screen readers? I am thinking about online quizzes within the Pearson MyLabs learning modules.

The Flash content would need to be made directly accessible or an alternative experience for it provided. Level Access’s experience with Adobe products is quite positive and extensive accessibility support is provided in the Flash framework. The challenge tends to be that Flash developers have not availed themselves of these enhancements.

When converting documents to an accessible PDF, is there a recommended PDF type? For instance, there are options to save as PDF, PDF/A, PDF/e, and PDF/X.

Generally stock PDF

“Market share” 83% Android (general market) – How is this data calculated? Device sales, installed OS, app downloads? Also, is the source of this statistic please?

The visual impairment market specific data is pulled from the WebAIM Screen Reader User Survey #6. There are a variety of challenges with the way this data is gathered but it’s the best we have from the perspective of accessibility. Broader market data is based on Strategy Analytics data.

Where is accessibility remediation headed (new software, etc.)? With the need mounting, time constraints apply in a big way. I haven’t found a program that is able to intuitively interpret content exactly the way it is intended to be read (if the reading order differs from the traditional left to right, top to bottom), every time. I believe that while advancements in software are great, the human element for remediation is a must.

Both Level Access and OpenText see an ongoing opportunity in building more robust tools, frameworks and automation around the retrofitting problem. Human intervention and judgement is likely to be required for the immediate future but we can take much better advantage of that human judgement. Automated decision making and tagging – through the application of some basic artificial intelligence – would round out what we expect to see in the next generation of retrofitting frameworks.

I create complex pdf fillable forms a lot. Some of the forms have hundreds of fillable fields. Is it necessary for each visual image to be read by a screen reader if it will read the same thing in the accompanying tooltip? Example: My form has the visual text “Your Name:” The fillable field for “your name” has a Tooltip that says, “Your Name”. Does the screen reader need to read both? Basically, the form would be repeating each field twice (Your name, Your name…Address, Address…Phone number, Phone number….). This seems confusing to me for the user if they are listening to the form in document mode. I did not see anything in the 508 guidelines for pdfs.

Generally speaking, now, if the text is available on the form field via a label association of tooltip the visual text can be ignored. That noted, these are the kind of tricky, form specific usability questions that really require user testing to get a good answer to.

What are the best practices are for making video documentation accessible to everyone?

Drastically oversimplifying:
• Caption the video
• Provide an audio describe alternative
• Provide a transcript that includes the video audio track + audio description
• Ensure the player for the video itself is accessible