Maintaining Accessibility

After you’ve built or modified your agency’s web pages, you will need to ensure they remain accessible as they are later modified and enhanced. The information below will help to ensure your site remains in compliance.

Accessibility Testing

Upon finishing work on a new or modified webpage, the webmaster should follow the following steps:

  1. Validate the code using a validation tools for XHTML 1.0 Strict. Developers should consider “date-stamping” the page’s accessibility via comments or metadata within the code of the page itself.
  2. Check accessibility of the page using appropriate browser features, automated testing tools, and manual user testing. Testing includes functional tests with assistive technology such as screen readers and magnifiers, comparing your site’s functionality on different browsers and operating systems (including text-based browsers such as Lynx), as well as automated testing software. If possible, do user testing with people with disabilities.
  3. Self-Certification Checklist – (doc) has been provided as a tool to help ensure that state web pages are accessible. Developers are encouraged to use this checklist to document compliance with the accessibility standards and to document situations involving Undue Burden.

About the Checklist

The Self-Certification Checklist is designed to help evaluate the extent to which websites are accessible to people with disabilities. Each item on the checklist refers to the requirements in the State Accessibility Standards. Consider using the checklist for each new or changed webpage. You may wish to retain a hard copy of the checklist to document compliance; otherwise you may choose to add comments or metadata to the web page’s code which document and date-stamp your use of the checklist. When using the checklist, all items on the list should be checked if they are applicable to your webpage or website. If items cannot be checked (but are applicable) please refer to the information below on Due Diligence and Undue Burden.

If you are unable to check all applicable boxes on the checklist, you should bring the matter to the attention of your agency’s executive Secretary or Director for a determination as to whether the inaccessible web content can or should be published.

Testing With Web Browsers

Most accessibility technology packages have demonstration versions that can be downloaded from the web. Some also have online versions such as the text-based browser Lynx. The testing abilities of the standard web browsers such as Internet Explorer, Firefox, Navigator, and Opera should not be underestimated. They are powerful tools for checking the accessibility of pages as they can be adjusted to simulate various outputs of web pages.

Validation Tools

Using accessibility tools is one of the first steps toward web accessibility; however, by themselves they cannot tell whether or not web pages are completely accessible or inaccessible. Hence online validators should not replace human judgment.

Ensuring Your Site Remains Accessible

During the course of the development lifecycle, periodic checks should be done to ensure a site is accessible. There are a variety of tools available to help with this task, including checklists, online testing, and validation tools. One important note is that online validators should not replace human judgment. By testing a site with real users, you can get the most practical and thorough validation that a site is compliant.

Good Practices

The following list includes steps that agencies should take to ensure accessible websites. Each agency should:

  • Regularly monitor new or changed web pages using the Self-Certification Checklist.
  • Regularly monitor California’s WebTools website for the latest information and training opportunities regarding accessibility.
  • Establish a process for handling complaints from the public regarding the accessibility of your website.
  • Retain any records that document evidence of due diligence for at least seven years (Due diligence could be documented electronically using the meta tags (<meta name=”accessibility-check” content=”Accessibility was checked on 09/28/2007 by PJ”>) or comments (<!- – Accessibility was checked on 09/28/2007 by PJ – ->) on each web page).
  • Enlist a network of people with disabilities to assist with recognizing accessibility issues, finding cost-effective solutions, and testing information.
  • Establish a process for monitoring the accessibility of the website, including executive sign-off on the accessibility status of their web content.
  • Identify roles and responsibilities within the agency.

Due Diligence

In an ongoing effort for agencies to show due diligence in providing access to people with disabilities in accordance with federal and state laws and statewide policies, executive staff are encouraged to sign off on the accessibility status of their web content (e.g., using the Self-Certification Checklist). This would entail oversight of online content that is newly created or redesigned and ready for public or interagency use. It is the Agency Secretary or Director, in cases of disability law and disability access-related litigation, who must justify agency policies, agency level of compliance, and/or a possible “undue burden” defense.

It is imperative that undue burden be determined not by the webmaster, web developer, or IT team – but rather by an executive decision maker at the highest level and with an overall knowledge of the status of the agency.

Undue Burden

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended in 1998, Section 508 (as referenced by California Government Code 11135) states that a hardship must be an “undue burden imposed on the agency.” Undue burden is defined within disability law as “a significant difficulty or expense,” considering all agency resources available to the program or component for which the product is being procured. This definition is consistent with the use of “undue burden” and “undue hardship” in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other sections of the Rehabilitation Act. The law requires something more than minor inconvenience or increased expense as a reason for non-compliance.

In all hardship cases, this “undue burden” explanation needs to be documented. Such documentation should show “severe financial strain” (e.g.. vendor estimates, etc.) and should be included with the Self-Certification Checklist – (doc) as evidence of due diligence.

In the event that compliance would impose an undue burden, the Agency Secretary or Director should review all documentation pertaining to

  • the difficulty or expense of compliance based on the overall funds available to the agency;
  • the agency resources available for which the supply or service is being acquired; and
  • the extent to which allocating resources to Section 508 compliance would interfere with the agency’s ability to carry out its other statutorily mandated responsibilities.

Agencies should note that they are required to thoroughly document their conclusion if an undue burden exists.  Such documentation may allow courts or enforcement authorities to “review” the agency’s undue burden determination to assess both actual needs and the resources available.

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