OCR Offers New – and FREE – Technical Assistance In Website Accessibility Issues
With Jonathan Helwink
After recently dismissing hundreds of a single complainant’s website accessibility cases due to a lack of sufficient agency resources, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced that it is launching a new proactive technical assistance initiative to help schools of all types in making their online platform and institutional websites accessible to individuals with disabilities. Specifically, OCR is offering three webinars over the next month (with more to come) to provide information on web accessibility to IT professionals, including “webmasters.” The webinars will include “suggestions for design decisions that recipients should adopt to ensure that their online programs, services and activities are accessible to individuals with disabilities.” The schedule for the webinars, and information on how to sign up for a session, is available on the Department’s announcement page.
In addition, OCR states that the agency is “available to conduct personalized interactive webinars with individual recipients.” OCR indicated, “in advance of the personalized webinar, OCR staff will identify a sampling of web accessibility concerns that currently impede access to the recipient’s online programs” and then “OCR will discuss those concerns and ways to address them with the recipient during the webinar.” The agency instructs schools that are interested in participating in one of the personalized websites to send their request to OCRWebAccessTA@ed.gov.
Both technical assistance initiatives offer valuable opportunities for educational institutions and OCR to work together in a proactive manner that increases compliance and hopefully avoids future complaints. HMBR encourages schools who are interested in learning more about web accessibility to sign up for these important informational sessions and to take advantage of the personalized interactive webinar opportunities as well.