Archive for April, 2009

One of the most common questions I hear these days is, “Does 508 specifically apply to State of Texas Agencies and their Electronic and Information Resources?”

If you understand that the Texas State Accessibility Standard and the 508 Standard are almost exact copies of each other, then the answer is a resounding YES!

According to Texas Administrative Code (TAC 206.50) all state of Texas web sites must meet the Texas accessibility standard. The Texas accessibility standard (as laid out in TAC 206.50) is almost an exact copy of the Federal 508 standard. They basically did a copy and paste, and then the state of Texas made one change…they made it so captioning for multi-media (video/audio) is not required in advance. According to Texas state law, captioning must be provided on request. Everything else from the Federal 508 standard applies. And in reality, the state of Texas could still be sued under the 508 standard via the ADA…so we aren’t completely safe from the captioning in advance issue either.

Here is a quote from the TAC 206.50 portion of the Texas State Law:

Effective September 1, 2006, unless an exception is approved by the executive director of the state agency or an exemption has been made for specific technologies pursuant to §213.17 of this title, all new or changed Web pages and Web content shall comply with the standards described in this subchapter.

Perhaps an even better piece of the Texas State law is TAC 213.15 (Accessibility Standards for State Agencies: Functional Performance Criteria) where it reads:

Effective September 1, 2006, unless an exception is approved by the executive director of the state agency or an exemption has been made for specific technologies pursuant to §213.17 of this chapter, all electronic and information resources developed, procured or changed by a state agency shall comply with the standards described in this subchapter.

There is no shadow of a doubt, all information technology MUST be accessible if you are a State of Texas Agency. Doesn’t matter if you bought it or developed it. Doesn’t matter if it is meant for the public, or just meant for your employees. Any deviation from the State of Texas Accessibility requires a compliance exception and exemption as defined by TAC 213.17. This exception must be approved by the executive director of that agency and must include:

  • a date of expiration;
  • a plan for alternate means of access for persons with disabilities;
  • justification for the exemption.

And, if laws aren’t motivational to you…if it takes a lawsuit to get your attention….well….the risk of lawsuits is very real. Target.com settled for 6 million dollars in August 2008 over an accessibility lawsuit. There is a lawsuit in the courts right now against the state of Texas and Oracle/Peoplesoft (brought by Texas State Employees). A new case just hit the books over Law School Applicants.

Staples also just reached an agreement to make their stores and web sites accessible.

I think the writing on the wall is crystal clear. Information Technology needs to be accessible for everyone. If you are not actively making your IT accessible, then I believe that you are guilty of discrimination.

Knowbility Extends Early Deadline Discounts for The John Slatin Access U Training Institute, Austin, TX – May 11-12, 2009

Two days of classes in accessible information technology to help meet state and federal accessibility requirements.

In response to current economic conditions, the deadline for Early Bird discount registration rates for the John Slatin Access U training have been extended indefinitely. The announcement was made by the sponsoring organization, Knowbility, Inc.

WHAT: Offered since 2003, Access U provides one to three days of comprehensive web and IT accessibility classes led by world renowned accessibility and policy experts and administrators. The Institute promotes a better understanding of both the need and the techniques for inclusive IT design, with a focus on the most recent changes in federal and global standards for Web Accessibility. Register now.

WHEN: The John Slatin Access U will be held at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas on Monday, May 11, and Tuesday, May 12, 2009, with Post-Conference sessions on Wednesday, May 13.

  • May 11th and 12th – Classes in four professional tracks: Technical, Content, Administrative, Usability New this year! – Usability certificate program is available.
  • May 13th – Intensive Courses: Molly Holzschlag and Derek Featherstone in small venue.
  • 3-Day Design Intensive – May 11 – 13, 2009 Molly Holzschlag, Web standards advocate, instructor and author, offers three days of advanced techniques in HTML/XHTML and CSS for accessibility, SEO, and superior web site performance.
  • Post Conference All-Day Sessions – Wednesday, May 13, 2009 Derek Featherstone: Breaking New Ground: Designing for Accessibility in Emerging Technologies. Molly Holzschlag: CSS Floats, Positioning and layout, best practices, cross–browser and interoperable design solutions, and a look at some of CSS3’s juicy features.

WHY: Web accessibility is important…and it’s required by law. Websites can be designed for accessibility or they can shut people out. Four million Texans are among the more than 54 million people in the U.S. who live with disabilities of all sorts, many of whom cannot fully benefit from the Internet and the World Wide Web because too many Web sites are designed with no thought of accessibility. Accessibility is not only the right thing to do, but now there are federal, state and local mandates requiring accessibility, and Access U is here to help IT professionals and administrators meet those requirements.

WHO: Access U sponsors and partners include St. Edward’s University, Adobe, Ability Awareness and the Usability Professionals Association. Knowbility, Inc. is the non-profit organization that produces Access U and many other accessibility training programs.