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I Got a Letter from the Office of Civil Rights, Now What?

taught by: Elizabeth Simister

co-presented by: Matt Kerste

Session Summary:

Organizations that receive complaint letters from the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) are often uncertain about what to do next. The intent of this session is to help provide some guidance to organizations on the common process for responding to these letters.

Description:

The Office of Civil Rights There are two things to know about the Office of Civil Rights. The first is that there is not a single office, but multiple offices. The second is that any type of organization can receive a compliant letter. For example, universities typically receive these letters from the Department of Education OCR while public entities like Winn-Dixie receive their letters from the Department of Justice. It is important to understand that an OCR can be sent from just about Federal agency depending on who has filed the complaint and the nature of the complaint. Title II and Title II of the ADA As of today, most complaint letters are filed under Title II and Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Even though there is a moratorium on updating these sections of the ADA at this time, the ambiguous language that defines a public space or public entity still persists. This lack of clarity has allowed some judges to define some websites as public spaces or entities as the web site is an extension of a user’s experience of that space. Under Title II public entities are defined as State and local governments while under Title III public spaces are defined as things like restaurants, schools, and even privately-owned office buildings. Understanding the OCR Investigation Process Once a complaint is filed, an investigator is assigned to alert the organization to ensure that all issues identified in the compliant are addressed by the organization. The investigation is only intended to determine if the compliant made has any validity. As part of this process, OCR requires that an auditor review the content against which the compliant has been. Although the use of automated tools is allowed, a person is required to make the final determination of what, if any, issues are real. Completion of the investigation often results in the need for a Corrective Action Plan that will define who, how, and when the issues will be addressed. Considerations when selecting an auditor When trying to determine who will perform the audit, it is very important to select an auditor has a strong knowledge of accessibility Laws and guidelines and how to test for them. The auditor can be internal to the organization but must demonstrate to the OCR investigator that he or she has a thorough understanding of accessibility first. If deciding to use a third-party, organizations should ask about whether or not people with disabilities perform testing, the methods used by people with disabilities performing testing, and assistive technologies used. If a non-disabled person is performing the testing, does that person have experience with assistive technologies and which ones? Organizations should also confirm how manual testing is performed. Keyboard, color contrast, and code review are critical for verifying accessibility. Determine content for auditing In many cases, the OCR letter will provide details about pages or content on the website that are not accessible. For most organizations, this content will be the immediate focus. In other instances, the organization will need to decide what to test. In those cases, organizations should consider what web pages get the most traffic or are the most difficult to use. Organizations must also consider if there are other applications or content, like videos and PDFs, that should be reviewed then make a determination on what a good sample size of this type of content will be. Something to keep in mind is that no one will be able to test everything so it is critical to really focus on the most used and most complicated content first. The Corrective Action Plan Once an audit has been completed, the next step is to provide a Corrective Action Plan. After the OCR investigation letter is received, an organization must begin discussing who, how, and even the nebulous when will be responsible for ensuring that all issues that come out of the investigation are addressed. The plan can be created by either people internal or external to the organization. Something to keep in mind, however, is if the who is an external resource, how will that relationship be managed. How and when will be based on the investigation results. The more challenging the issues are to fix, it may be acceptable to ask for a longer time period. Most sites are expected to be updated in a year, but occasionally three years have been granted. Conclusion If your organization has received a complaint, do not panic. Instead, view this as an opportunity to make your website a more inviting and welcoming place for all.

Practical Skills:

Organizations that receive complaint letters from the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) are often uncertain about what to do next. The intent of this session is to help provide some guidance to organizations on topics such as:

  • What is the OCR
  • What is responsive design and what value it offers
  • How responsive design can improve accessibility
  • How responsive design can evolve and speech and haptic interfaces will benefit
  • How you can approach responsive design for your next endeavorAn overview of Title II and Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
  • What is responsive design and what value it offers
  • How responsive design can improve accessibility
  • How responsive design can evolve and speech and haptic interfaces will benefit
  • How you can approach responsive design for your next endeavorUnderstanding the investigation process
  • What is responsive design and what value it offers
  • How responsive design can improve accessibility
  • How responsive design can evolve and speech and haptic interfaces will benefit
  • How you can approach responsive design for your next endeavor
  • What is responsive design and what value it offers
  • How responsive design can improve accessibility
  • How responsive design can evolve and speech and haptic interfaces will benefit
  • How you can approach responsive design for your next endeavor
  • What is responsive design and what value it offers
  • How responsive design can improve accessibility
  • How responsive design can evolve and speech and haptic interfaces will benefit
  • How you can approach responsive design for your next endeavor
  • Considerations when selecting an auditor
  • How to figure out what content to audit
  • Things to think about when creating a Corrective Action Plan

Presentation Materials: