State of Colorado Accessibility Newsletter - December 2023

Two women talking while looking at laptop computer

Accessibility News

Announcing the Incredible Accessible Websites Toolkit!

By Laurie Kubitz (she/her), TAP Sr. Accessibility Consultant

Looking for the latest and greatest accessibility resource? Move over, Procurement Toolkit and make way for the Accessible Websites Toolkit.

The Accessible Websites Toolkit provides sensational information to help you and your team:

  • Provide exceptional, equitable services
  • Eliminate undesirable accessibility issues for good
  • Save money by reducing accessibility debt
  • Provide trustworthy, quality information
  • Extend your service reach to all—that’s right, EVERYONE

Don’t delay. Visit the Accessible Websites Toolkit and get started today!

Warning, possible side effects may include:

  • Improved quality of life for people with disabilities due to inclusive government services
  • Increased usability for everyone  
  • Efficient workflows
  • Increased employee satisfaction
  • Intermittent supervisor satisfaction
  • Sudden onset accessibility advocacy

Technology Accessibility Rulemaking Update

By Alice Huyler, Senior Policy Advisor, OIT Rulemaking

OIT is continuing work on the Technology Accessibility Rules. Rules have the same force as legislation and these rules are designed to help provide further clarification and guidance on how to address accessibility and meet compliance with HB21-1110.

We are currently reviewing, considering and integrating the comments we received into the first draft rules and will be releasing a revised draft later this month. We are also transitioning from rule development to the announcement of a public rulemaking hearing. Thanks to everyone who shared their input and comments, we have now completed the following steps:

  • September & October - Assessed potential topics for the rules
  • November - Developed draft rules

Next up, we plan to proceed with the following steps on this tentative schedule:

  • December - release revised proposed rules, invitation to comment on the revised proposed rules, and announcement of a public rulemaking hearing
  • Mid-January - comments due and public rulemaking hearing
  • Mid-January - adopt rules
  • Mid-March - rules become effective

In the OIT Rulemaking Steps and How to Participate (doc) you will find additional information, including a link to the rules section of the OIT public website. The web page has the link to the Nov. 27 Listening Session video recording and chat log along with the draft rules and comments. Remember to sign up for Accessibility Rulemaking Notifications if you would like to receive emails about the rulemaking activity.


Accessibility Tips

Documents vs. Web Pages: which should you use?

By Beckie Bean (she/her), OIT Accessibility Consultant, and Abi O’Neal (she/her), IT Accessibility Program Manager at DPA

We all create a lot of documents in our work life. Even this article started its life as a document! While this topic can be filled with a lot of questions and confusion, the decision whether to put content into a document or a web page really boils down to one question: Does this have to be a document?

Does this have to be a document?

I bet you are now wondering, “What do you mean ‘have to’?” The following are examples of when you may need to present your content in document form:

  • You’re required to make a document version of the content available by statute, policy, rule, and/or standard operating procedure.
  • The content is intended primarily for print.
  • The content includes custom functionality (most common in forms).
  • A document is the only format accepted by a particular platform for hosting or submission.
  • It is a spreadsheet that is conveying data.
  • The content is exceptionally long and/or complex. Examples include:

Easy isn’t always better

When was the last time you took a moment to think about whether documents are the best format or whether they are just easier for you to make? A document is not always the best choice for sharing information.

For example, many of us use Google Docs to create documents. However, sharing them forces users to interact with a completely different interface. Google Docs only has an 8.37% market share. This means that you are forcing a majority of users to engage with an unfamiliar tool. Mobile users may even end up in a separate application altogether because they are taken away from their web browser to view the document.

You may now think this is an argument to use PDFs; however, it is not (sorry PDF lovers!). Converting a Google Doc to PDF will make the PDF lose all its necessary tagging that helps screen readers navigate through the document. Also, creating accessible PDFs and remediating inaccessible PDFs can be complex and time consuming. It’s a skill that your employees will need to be trained on and gain proficiency in for PDFs to be a viable document format for your organization to use.

Web pages are the most accessible option

Instead of using a document, put your content on a web page! HTML is always the most accessible, mobile-friendly, easy-to-update, and user-friendly format.

Benefits of using a web page

  • No tagging or guessing on accessibility: Web content is usually much easier to make accessible than documents.
  • Translatable: Built-in browser translators, like Google Translate, can instantly transform your content into the language preferred by the reader.
  • Single-source: You’ll never have to worry about “which version” you’re linking to, because you can update web pages whenever you need to without having to manage versions of a file.
  • Easier for users: Giving visitors a single experience (browsing your web content) means that you’ll be providing consistent navigation, clickability cues, and more. Save users time, frustration, and confusion.

So, the next time you need to publish content, ask yourself, “Does this have to be a document?” If the answer is “no,” then make it a web page.

If you still have questions, we are here to help! Review the information linked below and email us at OIT_Accessibility@state.co.us with any questions.

Additional Informational Resources:

Accessibility Essentials

How to Annoy Screen Reader Users

By Chelsea Cook (she/her), TAP Accessibility Consultant

I'm blind and every day I face some pretty annoying website mistakes. Let me share a few of them.

As someone who exclusively relies on a screen reader to access my computer, I use this valuable technology for both work and play. A screen reader is software that converts text to speech (and braille!) for people with disabilities. Screen readers can be powerful tools but only if the content is created correctly.

Here are the most common annoyances I often encounter online:

  • No or poor use of alt text (image descriptions). Good alt text makes me feel warm and fuzzy and included because it means someone—at least one someone—took the time to care about what my experience would be like.
  • Using tables in ways they weren't designed: Layout of content vs. comparing items. These slow me and my screen reader down. If the table is a form, the screen reader will think that all the fields must be announced at once when navigating. Yikes!
  • Unlabeled or incorrectly labeled links are adventures I don’t want to go on. Hyperlinked text that says “click here” or “learn more” offers me no clue about where the link will take me, which makes it hard to navigate a website.
  • Unlabeled buttons are confusing. I love a good mystery, but not when I’m trying to work. Am I submitting a form or canceling one? Ack! Take the mystery element away and properly label buttons, please.
  • Headings, headings, headings! My default navigation is by heading type so if a web page uses fancy fonts instead of proper headings, or heading types that are out of hierarchical order, that distracts me from the content of the page.
  • When creating forms, make any required fields and any errors obvious to assistive technology. I’m sure my computer is tired of me asking, “Why won’t this form successfully submit?!” I have much more to say about forms; stay tuned for an upcoming article!

If you incorporate these points while designing websites, you will be on your way to building inclusive experiences. Starting small with accessibility is possible and goes a long way toward making my time online more manageable and enjoyable.

Video: Learn about the impact of accessibility and the benefits for everyone who relies on text-to-speech technology. (W3C WAI)

Woman working on computer in a modern bright office

Accessibility & You

Opportunity in Onus

By Abi O'Neal (she/her), IT Accessibility Program Manager at DPA

As we work to ensure equitable and inclusive experiences across our digital ecosystems, many of us face challenges. From resourcing issues to knowledge gaps and vendor reliance, these compounding realities can make our shared goals feel more like burdens. In reality, our current path is dotted with unique opportunities to reflect, improve and better serve our communities. The challenges that we face today are providing blueprints for sustained success.

If you have identified knowledge gaps for yourself or your colleagues, now is a great time to explore employer-sponsored learning programs, free training opportunities, and your organization’s approach to skills development. If you have encountered issues with a technology vendor, it may be a good time to examine your procurement processes. It might also be the right moment to assess whether the vendor shares your commitment to accessibility, is responsive to your organizational needs, and is able to help you fulfill your obligations to your communities.

Opportunities for improvement are not limited to solving “big” issues. As you audit your websites for WCAG 2.2 compliance, you can pursue oft-neglected tasks that may significantly benefit accessibility and usability.

  • Look at quality. Is your content readable and well-structured? Is it free of broken and low quality links?
  • Tidy up your markup. Malformed and bloated HTML can make your pages behave badly, load more slowly, and be difficult for some folks to interact with. Efficient and semantic HTML benefits content managers, users and search engines alike. In fact, it is the basis for accessibility.
  • Check resources. Are you sharing old or problematic documents? Could documents (like PDFs) be converted to web pages that are easier to maintain and make accessible? 
  • Look at workflows. Is the right person updating your content? Are they updating content regularly?
  • Look at your content in context. Is your content in a location that makes sense? Can visitors easily find it? Does it comply with your brand and style standards?
  • Think about your visitors. Are you providing consistent help? Is the content that you are sharing accurate, valuable and actionable?

Attention State of Colorado employees!

Wanted: Empathy Lab participants

Your website is your most critical communications platform. If you invest in its accessibility and quality, you are investing in your ability to positively, meaningfully, and sustainably inform, engage with, and serve all of your visitors.

The Technology Accessibility Program launched the Empathy Lab experiential and learning site in November, and needs your help! TAP is looking for more folks to complete the training and quiz. The site includes 19 exercises that allow you to step into the shoes of another user, and experience technology in a different way. There are several benefits to completing the exercises:

  • If you're looking for a fun and different type of course to meet your monthly training goal, look no further! You can expect to spend at least 45 minutes with the Empathy Lab material, including a brief quiz at the end. Be sure to record your course time in SOC Learns as External Training.
  • This training will help you gain a deeper understanding that not everybody experiences technology like you do. There isn’t a single office, agency, or division within the state whose job it is to make digital services accessible. Accessibility is a team sport!

If those aren't enough reasons to dive into the Lab, you'll also be helping OIT gather information that will help expand technology services in Colorado - how cool is that? Thanks in advance for your participation with the Empathy Lab experiential and learning site!


Notable & Quotable

“Disability is not something an individual overcomes. I'm still disabled. I'm still Deafblind. People with disabilities are successful when we develop alternative techniques and our communities choose inclusion.” 

- Haben Girma, author of “Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law”