Office of Civil Rights (OCR) Section 504 / 508 Complaints
Many schools have received a notification letter from the Office of Civil Rights (OCR). This letter notifies the school that a complaint has been filed with the OCR stating that portions of the school's website does not meet accessibility standards. All Public schools are required by law under Section 504 and 508 to meet accessible standards including their website.
Purpose of the OCR Letter
The intent of the filings from the OCR seem to be to get school districts to voluntarily move to WCAG 2.0 AA level of compliance and to put policies and procedures in place to ensure that compliance is an ongoing concern.
Current laws regarding electronic content require a much lower level of accessibility (Section 508) and while there is movement to change that and increase it to WCAG 2.0 AA, the OCR is using section 504 to push the issue for schools and other places of public accommodation to achieve accessibility results more quickly.
What Should Your School District Do?
Whether you have received a complaint or not, you should put together a plan and process to affirm your commitment to achieving a website that is accessible to people with disabilities. Your plan should involve:
- Affirming your commitment to ensure that people with disabilities have opportunities equal to those of others to enjoy the recipients’ programs, services, and activities, including those delivered online;
- Selecting an auditor who has the requisite knowledge and experience to audit content and functionality and identify barriers to access on the existing website for people with disabilities;
- Conducting a thorough audit of existing online content and functionality;
- Adopting policies and procedures to ensure that all new, newly added or modified online content and functionality will be accessible to people with disabilities;
- Making all new website content and functionality accessible to people with disabilities;
- Developing a corrective action plan to prioritize the removal of online barriers;
- Posting a notice to persons with disabilities about how to request access to online information or functionality that is currently inaccessible; and
- Providing website accessibility training to all appropriate personnel.
To learn more about putting together a voluntary agreement plan see the U.S. Department of Education news article:
Common Problems with Website Content
Common problems affecting many of the websites include:
- Some content of the website could only be accessed by people who can use a computer mouse, which meant that content was not available to those who are blind, many who have low-vision, and those with disabilities affecting fine motor control;
- PDF documents on the website were created by scanning a document (basically turning the text into an image) making it inaccessible to blind people;
- Parts of the website used color combinations that made text difficult or impossible for people with low vision to see; and
- Videos were not accurately captioned, so they were inaccessible to people who are deaf.
Learn more about keeping your content compliant.
Foxbright Can Help
Foxbright has the skillset required to navigate the complex rules and guidelines for creating an accessible and compliant website. We can work with your school to achieve a compliant website by:
- Training your staff
- Running audits of your website
- Cleaning up site content that fails the audit
- Providing website designs that meet WCAG 2.0 AA
- Continued monitoring of your website
Learn more about Foxbright Compliance Services.
Can I do this myself?
It is important to know that there are many tools available for scanning and auditing your website. These tools include:
These tools can identify issues but can't help with interpreting the accessibility rules and guidelines to determine how to fix your website.
What if I am already using a 3rd Party Tool?
If you have purchased any of these tools and are finding it a bit overwhelming, Foxbright can help. Foxbright offers services to help you
- Understand your reports
- Configure and adjust your settings to eliminate the "noise"
- Provide recommendations on how to address issues
Learn more about Foxbright Accessibility Tools Consulting.