State of Colorado Accessibility Newsletter - January 2024

Several people in a circle with their hands clasped indicating teamwork

Happy New Year!

The road to accessibility begins with a first step

By Karen Pellegrin (she/her), TAP Senior Program Manager

New year, new you! Don’t be overwhelmed, start small. Don’t forget that reaching digital accessibility compliance is a marathon, not a sprint. Here are a few small steps you can take now that will get you started on your accessibility journey:

  • Use alt text: start adding image descriptions to your web pages and documents. Here is some additional guidance on how to write good alternative text from Harvard University.
  • Modernize your meetings: Improve the virtual meeting experience for all participants. Use our Accessible Meetings Presentation (Google Slides) to guide your efforts.
  • Make a statement: Add an accessibility statement page to your website. You can link to this page from other websites and applications and this will inform people of both your commitment to accessibility and how you will support people with disabilities when issues arise.

Accessibility News

Technology accessibility rulemaking update

By Alice Huyler, Senior Policy Advisor, OIT Rulemaking

OIT continues to move forward with rulemaking to clarify and add details to HB 21-1110 and SB 23-244. Our intent is to establish expectations in the rules that honor the need for accessible government technology while also allowing government entities to prioritize their efforts and integrate accessibility into their day-to-day operations.

Please share your input to help us achieve that goal because we can't do it without you! You can submit written comments in the comment form or by email to oit_rules@state.co.us. You can also register to join the public rulemaking hearing on Zoom, Jan. 23 from 1 - 3 p.m.

The Proposed Technology Accessibility Rules Summary steps through each section of the rules and shares some of the comments we received and thought processes leading to the proposal. The Summary of Changes is a good place to review what changed from the first draft of the rules to the latest proposed version. The full text of the proposed rules, plus all the comments we've received, and other helpful information are all available on the OIT rulemaking web page.

Man in wheelchair using laptop at desk in bright kitchen

Accessibility Tips

Did you know? Public entity definition

By Karen Pellegrin (she/her), TAP Senior Program Manager

What is considered a public entity? According to 42 U.S. Code § 12131 - Definitions, a public entity is a state or local government, as well as any agency, office, or department run by a state or local government. Examples include public libraries, city police departments, public schools, community colleges and public universities, county social services and state vocational rehabilitation agencies.

However, State of Colorado’s House Bill 21-1110 actually changed the definition of public entity from the federal Title II ADA U.S.C. definition to our own state definition. Under the state definition, it is an “instrumentality of a state or local government.” This means that entities such as charter schools are also considered part of this definition since charter schools operate under an agreement (charter) with the local school district or some other state or local government entity.

Accessibility Essentials

Training is a winding road and mileposts are different for everyone

By Kate Miller (she/her), TAP Accessibility Consultant

At TAP, one of the most important jobs is to guide and advise on accessibility best practices, as it relates to training and assessing skills. Skills and training criteria help an organization to hire people with accessibility skills and train current employees on skills related to accessibility. It is a good idea to identify who in your organization needs training and what kind is needed for their role. It is also recommended that all employees take basic digital accessibility training.

Assessing Training and Skills

Meeting people where they are is important when providing accessibility training since not everyone needs to know everything about accessibility.

  1. A great first step is to conduct an employee skills assessment to understand the gaps in knowledge as it relates to accessibility, then identify what type of accessibility training is needed. Consider creating an Accessibility Related Roles Assessment form that is unique for your agency.
    • Here are some examples of various roles and skills training: 
      • General staff: digital accessibility fundamentals.
      • Designers and usability specialists: incorporate the needs of people with disabilities into information architecture, visual design and usability testing.
      • Developers: create accessible applications and digital forms.
      • Website authors and digital content creators: create accessible websites, eLearning courses, recorded and live videos, digital forms and documents.
      • Project and product managers: address accessibility in development life cycles, agile processes and product management.
      • Testers: how to test for WCAG conformance.
      • Service desk personnel: troubleshoot reported accessibility issues.
  2. Develop an Accessibility Training Plan to define who should receive training and when training is mandatory. Identify when and how you will make new training available and how you will track and enforce participation.
  3. Develop and publish a training calendar and communicate training offerings to agency management and employees.
  4. Pursue train the trainer options to increase scalability within your agency. Train the trainer allows you to start training a few people within your organization and then have those trained individuals train others.
  5. Make space for employees to take the necessary training/professional development and track employees who take training. Consider a recognition model to encourage training and skill building. This can also be advantageous to your employees' professional development and resume building.
  6. Include accessibility skills in job descriptions (including, but not limited to web developer, web designer, content creator, graphic designer, instructional designer, communication director/manager/coordinator, software developer, user experience designer, human resources, project manager, business analyst, admin, etc.)
  7. Request employee feedback on training to gauge effectiveness.
  8. If applicable, revisit your accessibility checklist to ensure all phases (launch, integrate and optimize) within the “skills” tab have been assigned to specific people (not just a communications person) accounted for, and accomplished.
  9. Outline specifically how your executive director/sponsor can help, and what they need to know about accessibility in order to help build awareness and desire.

It's important to build on the awareness that accessibility is a responsibility that everyone within an agency needs to share - this isn’t one person’s job (or in some cases, an add-on to one’s existing job). For State of Colorado-specific accessibility training resources, visit the Training section.

Asian young blind person woman with headphone using smart phone with voice assistive technology for disabilities persons in workplace with computer and braille display

Accessibility & You

Ten things I hate about forms

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

Forms are a crucial way to communicate with and get information from your colleagues and customers. When done correctly, it is a smooth experience for all users. When done incorrectly, it is an exercise in frustration and users may not respond to your request. If you have any of these issues in your form, you can expect my reply to be, "I will need help to do this" or "I’m not filling out this form."

  1. PDF Forms vs. Web Forms: If you want to be my friend, don't send me a PDF form. PDF forms are fraught with accessibility issues because it takes work to make them accessible, and they guarantee that I'll need help either filling them out, signing them, or both. The ones that don't allow you to save what you've filled out are especially infuriating.
  2. CAPTCHAs: While these are thankfully becoming less and less common, they are still out there in the name of "security". Unfortunately, they are not usable to people with disabilities for a variety of reasons. Even alternatives like audio CAPTCHAs pose problems for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
  3. Labels: If form fields and their labels are not associated with each other, I will hear, "Edit, edit, edit" all the way down and won't know what you are asking.
  4. Required fields: Similar to labels, if fields are required but that is not indicated to me, I'll get down to the bottom of the form and think, "Why won't it submit? What did I do wrong?"
  5. Error checking: Tell me what's wrong, and not just with "fields marked in red". Make the computer help if the computer is complaining.
  6. Use proper HTML elements: Developers will often be fancy and use elements that may meet a visual style, but won’t present in a straightforward way to assistive technology. If something is meant to be a radio button, make it a radio button! Otherwise, I might just hear "Yes, clickable". OK, will that do something if pressed?
  7. Signatures: Have other ways besides using a mouse to draw your signature. If you don't, I definitely won't fill out your form. I can't.
  8. Time limits: If there is one, make the user aware of it, make it go away, or let me be able to control it. There's nothing worse than dealing with any or all of the above problems and then being kicked off the form. This helps users with cognitive disabilities as well.
  9. Data formats: If you want something, such as a date, in a particular format, let me know. An extreme version of this is letting me know at the expense of whatever the field label should be.
  10. Overly-long forms: Break up lengthy forms into meaningful sections. It lets users know that the fields in a section are related and helps focus the user on that information, rather than overwhelming them with a huge form.

Keeping these points in mind while designing forms will go a long way toward making my time online more manageable and enjoyable.

Accessibility Essentials

Digital accessibility etiquette

By Kelly Tabor, TAP Communications Manager

Technology plays a pivotal role in our daily lives and ensuring that digital spaces are accessible to everyone should be built into our values. Digital accessibility etiquette refers to the practice of creating and maintaining digital environments that accommodate people with diverse abilities and disabilities. By adopting thoughtful and inclusive approaches, we can foster an online culture that prioritizes accessibility for all.

Alt Text for Images: 
When sharing images online, whether on social media or websites, always include alt text. Alt text is a brief description of an image that is read aloud by screen readers, enabling people who are blind or low-vision to understand the content. Alt text is also helpful to people with slow internet connections when pages are not fully loading.

Captioning for Videos:
Not everyone consumes video content in the same way. Provide captions or subtitles for videos to make the content accessible to people who are deaf or hard of hearing. Captioning also benefits people with cognitive disabilities, those who may be in a noisy environment or prefer to watch videos with the sound turned off.

Color Contrast:
Double check your color contrast when designing documents or web pages. It can be challenging for people who are low-vision or colorblind to decipher some text and images. Ensure that there is sufficient contrast between text and background colors to improve readability for all users. You can use the WebAIM color contrast checker to test the contrast.

Responsive Design:
Be sure your design strategy accounts for websites and applications that adapt to different screen sizes and devices. Mobile-friendly content enhances the user experience for everybody and is required by WCAG under WCAG 2.1 Success Criterion 1.5.10, “Reflow,”.

Avoiding Flashing Content:
Steer clear of flashing or rapidly changing content, as these can trigger seizures in people with epilepsy or other photosensitive conditions. Prioritize maintaining a calm and steady visual environment.

Testing with Assistive Technologies:
Regularly test your digital content using assistive technologies such as screen readers and voice recognition software. This proactive approach helps identify and address potential accessibility barriers before they reach users.

Digital accessibility etiquette is not just a legal or ethical obligation, it’s a commitment to creating an inclusive online world where everyone, regardless of their abilities, can participate fully. By incorporating these practices into our online work, we contribute to a more accessible, diverse and welcoming digital landscape that leaves no one behind.


Notable & Quotable

“The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.” 

- Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web