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Ensuring Website Accessibility for People with Disabilities
by Jennifer MacLennan

The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is actively addressing the issue of website accessibility for persons with disabilities in Arizona and nationally. OCR has authority to enforce Section 504 and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Under these laws, OCR can investigate whether a school district has discriminated against a person with disabilities, including whether its website contains barriers to people with vision impairments or other disabilities.

Your district's website must be accessible and functional for individuals with disabilities. For example, pictures should be tagged with text descriptions so a student using a screen reader will have a description of the graphic. Content should be accessible through keyboard shortcuts rather than limited to navigation by a mouse.

Districts may wish to evaluate whether their website meets published accessibility standards. The review should be accomplished by those with technical expertise and could include a review of the following issues:
  • Does the District have policies requiring online content created by your employees to be accessible?
  • Does the District require third-party vendors to comply with these policies?
  • Have employees who develop and maintain web content received training in website accessibility?
  • Has the District audited its website to test its accessibility and functionality, including all school-specific sites and intranet pages?
Recently, OCR reached settlements with 11 education groups after receiving complaints about website accessibility. OCR published each of the resolution letters and agreements here.

OCR resolution agreements often include requirements for creating policies and procedures, training key employees, making new content accessible to people with disabilities, and taking corrective action to address inaccessible content.

The published resolution letters and agreements can serve as a model for districts and other education groups to follow to ensure their websites are accessible.

For questions regarding these issues, contact any of Gust Rosenfeld's School Law attorneys listed below.
Robert Haws - 602.257.7976 - rhaws@gustlaw.com
Jennifer MacLennan - 602.257.7475 - maclennan@gustlaw.com
Susan Segal - 602.257.7425 - spsegal@gustlaw.com
Shelby Exposito - 602.257.7498 - sExposito@gustlaw.com

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