2004 Conference Proceedings

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DEVELOPING A WEB ACCESSIBILITY POLICY - IMPROVE ACCESS AND ENSURE IMPLEMENTATTION

Presenters
Deborah V. Buck
Director, State IT Accessibility Initiatives
Information Technology Technical Assistance and Training Center (ITTATC) Georgia Tech's Center for Assistive Technology and Environmental Access
(CATEA) PO Box 32 Delmar, NY 12054
Phone: 518-439-1263
Fax: 518-439-3451
Cell: 518-441-7204
Email: deborah.buck@ittatc.org

In 2001-2002 the Information Technology Technical Assistance and Training Project (ITTATC) in collaboration with RESNA, the Association of Tech Act Projects (ATAP), the University of Iowa College of Law, Health Policy & Disability Center and the New York State Office for Technology conducted a survey of state government initiatives regarding electronic and information technology accessibility.

The survey initiative documented that every state in the nation has some type of directive addressing web site accessibility. Subsequently, information regarding state's efforts on web accessibility, application development, procurement and public accessibility was collected and the links to state's policies on these issues can be viewed on the ITTATC web site - Overview of State Accessibility Laws, Policies, Standards and Other Resources Available On-line http://www.ittatc.org/laws/stateLawAtGlance.cfm

After reviewing state's initiatives regarding web accessibility it became clear that not only has every state utilized a different approach to provide guidance to state agencies on web accessibility (e.g. State Law, Executive Order, policy or accessibility statement), but the scope and clarity of the directives varies widely. Policies with clear standards, scope of applicability, monitoring and compliance statements have a significantly higher impact on the successful implementation by state agency personnel and contractors. The result should be an improved level of access. To effectively implement a state web access policy, state entities must know whether the policy applies to their agency or not. In many states, the Executive Branch issuing the policy may not have authority over all state governmental entities. Unless the policy clearly specifies what entities must comply, state and local governments cannot assume full compliance. Due to the limitations of authority, a state may need to specify that compliance with the policy is recommended, but is optional for specific entities.

Common practice to date amongst states has been to replicate policies developed by other states. By merely replicating other states policies, a state may fail to examine their unique needs and may be unaware of the pitfalls of adopting a policy that fails to address critical policy components that are vital to implementation. ITTATC has developed an on-line tool to assist state and local governments in the development of a web access policy and standards. This session will focus on the components of developing a comprehensive web access policy based on different factors that may prevail at the state level. The tool is not based on a "model policy" approach that promotes one way to develop a policy. Rather the tool was developed based on a query-based process to assist states in developing a policy and set of standards that are right for their state.

The tool will step the state or local government user through examining the following components of a web access policy: Purpose, Policy, Scope, Compliance Requirements, Procurement, Testing and Validation, Monitoring, Designated Individuals, Complaint Process, Contact Information, Definitions.

Similarly, the tool will step the user through examining the following components of the standards development document: Purpose, Scope, Standards, Definitions, and Contact Information. The result the user can expect is possible language or phrases to use in each component area when constructing their policy or standards document on web accessibility. In addition to the language and phrases, the links to original documents from other states will be provided to see how they used similar language. While this content is offered only as a suggestion and should not be considered consulting or legal advice, the user will be in a better position to write a clear policy with standards that can be applied correctly according to the scope their state defines. ITTATC hopes that with the tool being used by many states, the tool can be progressively refined and be a helpful centralized resource for government entities across the country.

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