By Laurie Kubitz (she/her), TAP Senior Accessibility Consultant
There was a public servant from Colorado,
which WCAG they did try to follow.
When it changed on a dime,
they were alerted in time
to update their technology pronto!
The anticipation has been building and it’s finally come to pass. The World Wide Web Consortium's (W3C) latest version of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, WCAG 2.2, W3C, is now live.
The Governor’s Office of Information Technology (OIT) is statutorily required to provide statewide accessibility standards and the current standards have been updated to WCAG version 2.2, level A and AA success criteria.
TS-OEA-001: Technology Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities, (PDF)
Read about the updated changes from 2.1 to 2.2 from the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI), What’s New in WCAG 2.2, W3C WAI.
What impact will this have on state technology?
- Nine new criteria
- Success criterion 4.1.1 Parsing has been removed. More information is in WCAG 2 FAQ, 4.1.1 Parsing, W3C WAI.
What can you do now to prepare for WCAG 2.2?
The primary concern for content creators is the consistent help criteria, W3C WAI. Make sure that all help or support content that is on your site and can be found on multiple pages can be found consistently in the same place on the pages. This includes but is not limited to:
- Support contacts (email, phone numbers)
- Links to help pages and FAQs
- Chat widget
- Accessibility statement
- Begin integrating 2.2 updates to code into development sprints
Procurement and product owners
- Make sure your platforms and platform vendors are integrating 2.2 into their platforms and that they have a roadmap for 2.2 compliance.
- If you’re planning on getting a website or application manually tested, make sure the testing team is using WCAG 2.2 A and AA criteria.
- Ensure WCAG 2.2 success criteria are added to your system requirements and compliance is included in your statements of work for all new platforms and updates.
The OIT Technology Accessibility Program provides resources and tools for understanding and applying WCAG to your state government technology:
- Version 2.2:
- Updated State Accessibility Technical Standard:
- OIT's Guide to Accessible Web Services
By Kevin McDaniel, DPA Statewide Equity Manager - Accessibility
This October, the Statewide Equity Office celebrates 50 years of disability employment awareness, countless innovations inspired by accessibility, and the National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM).
In Colorado, over 400,000 adults with disabilities rely on some kind of assistive technology to live their lives independently and access the services they need.
NDEAM exists to celebrate the contributions of our nation’s workers with disabilities and showcase the benefits of inclusive employment practices. The theme for 2023’s NDEAM is advancing access and equity.
Braille from the Battlefield
Over 200 years ago, Napoleon Bonaparte’s army was struggling to communicate at night. To solve this issue, Charles Barbier proposed a system of writing called night writing. This writing system used raised characters on wax paper. Soldiers would run their fingers along the characters, allowing them to communicate information silently and without light.
Barbier pushed for the universal implementation of the night writing system with Napoleon, but it was never fully accepted due to the recording process. To create any communication, it required the use of torches and, ultimately, was regarded as too impractical for use on the battlefield by French commanders. Thankfully, the idea of communicating with raised characters did not die out. Night writing still served a revolutionary purpose.
Louis Braille, a follower of Barbier and student of his night writing system, spent the next 25 years perfecting it, capitalizing on the fact that the army couldn’t find use for an after-hours communication system, and ultimately became the author of modern Braille. He maintained that credit was owed to Barbier throughout his life.
Embracing Accessibility Fosters Innovation
In 1972, chef and former World War II typist, Julia Child, introduced open captions to America on her wildly popular PBS program, The French Chef, after learning about the technology at the First National Conference for Television in 1971.
In many ways, it’s fitting that Child, a lifelong learner and lover of languages, was the first to debut captioning technology. She began her cooking career translating French recipes into English and vice versa before leaving Europe after the war. She was truly an innovator of her time.
Today, closed captions are required by the Federal Communications Commission and millions of people with visual disabilities can rely on technologies like keyboards and Braille to interact with the world around them.
In fact, if you’ve ever asked Alexa or SIRI to add something to your shopping list or create a calendar invite, you’re utilizing technology developed for individuals with limited mobility.
Did you know? The typewriter was developed for Italian Countess Carolina Fantoni da Fivizzano, a blind woman.
Braille, captions, electric toothbrushes, bendy straws, audiobooks and even the keyboard I’m typing this story with, a child of the typewriter, are innovations born from the spirit of accommodation and were created by or for persons with disabilities. They’ve also improved access and literacy across the globe. Accessibility and equity are innovation.
Celebrating Access and Equity
Today we are working toward our own objective: to improve access to the State’s programs, services, activities and technologies, regardless of language or ability. The scope is overwhelming, but the importance is indisputable.
As we continue to move the State forward and solidify our maturity in accessibility, it’s important that we recognize the need for access and equity. Accessibility is not a destination; it is a value, a shift in our culture. History shows us the great things that come from accommodations related to accessibility. If we embrace the work, we can truly capitalize on all of the innovative benefits that come with a service-centric approach and improve access for all Coloradans.
Please join the Statewide Equity Office this October in celebrating the strides to improve access for persons with disabilities and continuing our work to remove barriers for all residents of our great state.
By Laurie Kubitz (she/her), TAP Senior Accessibility Consultant
As you may know, House Bill 21-1110, Colorado Laws for Persons with Disabilities, strengthened state anti-discrimination laws. It’s now considered discrimination to exclude someone with a disability from using or being denied the benefits of services, programs, or activities offered by any Colorado state or local government. That’s something that we can all stand behind and it’s about time!
“But surely that doesn’t apply to internal state or local government services, programs or activities provided to employees of that government organization, right?”
It actually does. HB21-1110 applies to all technology that is both public and internal-facing. This includes any technology used in employment practices like:
- Hiring and separation
- Job assignments
- All other employment related activities
“We’re already facing an herculean effort making our external services accessible with little to no resources. Are our internal services really a priority?”
As Kevin McDaniel says in his article above, “The scope is overwhelming, but the importance is indisputable.” An accessible, equitable and diverse workplace provides valuable benefits. But an accessible workplace isn’t only a legal requirement, it’s also a strategic advantage for state and local government:
- Attract and retain talent by setting up all employees for success
- Increase innovation by hiring folks who have unique problem solving skills learned through lived experiences
- Enhance productivity and improve morale through a culture of inclusion and belonging
- Increase usability of government services for all by integrating diverse user perspectives into projects from the beginning
- Inspire trust in government by including disabled Coloradans in government employment
In her article this month, my colleague and friend, Chelsea Cook shares, “...if hiring managers knew how much problem-solving was involved in just getting the resume on the desk or getting access to a video interview, more people with disabilities would be considered for hire.” Her article is an excellent case study in the value of providing equal opportunity for employment success and also the dignity of work. State job seekers and colleagues with disabilities are “first and foremost a human being with dignity and the autonomy to decide how she will perform her job.” (Harvard Business Review)
“I don’t have any disabled colleagues so it’s not a problem, right?”
It is. According to the Invisible Disabilities® Association (IDA), “‘80% of people with disabilities have an ‘invisible’ disability, one that cannot be readily seen because of using a visible assistive device such as a wheelchair, hearing aid, or other device,’ says Jess Stainbrook, Executive Director of the Invisible Disabilities® Association (IDA) headquartered in Colorado. ‘In Colorado, the number of people living with invisible disabilities could fill Empower Field at Mile High almost 15 times!’”
The potential for discrimination also applies to potential employees as well. When hiring for a position ask yourself are there websites, applications or devices used in this role that can’t be used by people with disabilities? How might we prepare our future colleagues for success and attract and retain a much needed workforce, especially aging workers, as population growth slows (PDF, State Demography Office)?
An accessible workplace is both a legal requirement and the right thing to do. But if you’re still not convinced, consider the fact that as Americans work longer into old age, we have a 30-50% chance of becoming disabled after age 65 (ADA National Network). At the very least, do your future self a favor and start planning now for creating a disability friendly workplace and culture.
Accessibility planning resources for state and local government
- Accessibility Law and Planning for Local Governments
- Accessibility Planning Template
- State of Colorado Accessibility Guides
- Accessibility Law for Colorado State and Local Government
- OIT Accessibility Operations Memorandum
- Colorado Accessibility Newsletter Sign-Up
- The state JAWS Inspect license encountered a hiccup that was recently fixed. If you are a JAWS Inspect user and are having problems with accessing the tool, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Join our Website Community of Practice Google Space. It’s a true community of practice as it’s not managed by TAP but collectively by state employees. It’s a place to share knowledge, connect ideas, and ask questions about State of Colorado websites, best practices, tools and vendors.
- WCAG 2.2: The W3C expects to publish WCAG 2.2 as a “W3C Recommendation” web standard by the end of 2023. The TAP team will keep you posted as we learn more.
- Empathy Lab will officially kick off on Nov. 2 at 9:00 a.m.! For state agencies that join TAP's open office hours meeting, you already have the invite on your calendars. For OIT employees that are interested in joining the kick-off event, email email@example.com for details. The event will include:
- Welcome from Kate Miller
- Special guests
- Meet the Empathy Lab's new Community Steering Committee (CSC) members
- Overview of the lab's first deliverable: the experiential learning site
- What's to come in the near future
By Chelsea Cook (she/her), TAP Accessibility Consultant
As a member of the OIT Technology Accessibility Program (TAP) and a person who is blind and uses a screen reader, my journey to employment with the State of Colorado has had many ups and downs. Unfortunately, this is quite common for people with disabilities.
For screen reader users, computers can be both a blessing and a curse in the hiring process. It’s common for online job applications to have major accessibility problems, often preventing someone with a disability from completing the application independently. Many organizations contract out their job applications, so they aren't even aware that they are excluding a whole class of people from consideration. I’ve applied for three state positions using Colorado's state application process and have found that it is better than others I’ve used, with only a few accessibility issues.
Here is my journey and some accessibility tips that will improve the experience for people with disabilities:
Step 1: Completing the application
- I could complete all the form fields with a minimum amount of problems each time I used it.
- I was able to benefit from the system’s ability to save my information so that I don’t have to reenter it each time I apply for a new position.
Step 2: Pre-employment assessments
Once the application was submitted is where things got interesting. After submitting my first application, there was a computerized job skills test that applicants were required to pass before the interview stage. Here are some issues I ran into:
Questions were irrelevant to screen reader users, such as how to perform certain operations only with a mouse and reasoning questions that required the user to visually choose different shapes.
- Per HB21-1110, the state requires all government digital interfaces to follow the most recent WCAG guidelines. Guideline 2.1 – Keyboard Accessible: Make all functionality available from a keyboard.
The accommodation offered was to go to a physical location which, during COVID, I was uncomfortable with, so I used a job coach to complete this test. My colleague used an Aira agent with her own minutes.
- Learn about Physical Disabilities in the Workplace and how to provide appropriate accommodations from the Job Accommodation Network
Timed tests require extra time for people with disabilities. A private company I applied for wouldn't let me apply again for six months after running out of time for the test.
- Per HB21-1110, the state requires all government digital interfaces to follow the most recent WCAG guidelines. Guideline 2.2 – Enough Time: Provide users enough time to read and use content.
Later, I had a meeting with the HR and ADA coordinators to make them aware of problems with the test and offer the following feedback: Make sure you have an accommodations plan in place and that your organization is tracking those requests and using them to improve the hiring process.
Step 3: Interviews
Virtual interviews are easy, but require people using screen readers to identify their disability up front before the interview starts if the interviewer isn’t prepared.
- It’s helpful to ask at the time that the interview is scheduled if the interviewee needs any accommodations (without asking if they are disabled).
- How to make virtual meetings more accessible
- TAP training: Accessible Meetings
- How-To: Accessible Meetings
Step 4: Post-hiring
Each state agency has their own hiring process, and different steps can have varying levels of accessibility.
When I applied as an accessibility tester in OIT, the background check vendor required a signature drawn only with a mouse. I found this out after starting the form, which had to be completed within 15 minutes. There was also a time limit on the background check process itself, so no time for accommodations to be requested or implemented. I had to get sighted help to submit this on time.
- Per HB21-1110, the state requires all government digital interfaces to follow the most recent WCAG guidelines. Guideline 2.5.1 Pointer Gestures – Level A: Make it easier for users to operate functionality through various inputs beyond the keyboard.
Later, when I reported this as an accessibility issue to the vendor, they indicated that they weren’t familiar with the term “accessibility”. Ironically, I was applying for an accessibility position!
One of the best qualities a job applicant can have is perseverance; if hiring managers only understood the problem-solving skills involved in submitting a resume or getting access to a video interview! Not only would more people with disabilities be hired but organizations would increase innovation by hiring folks who have unique problem solving skills learned through the challenges they’ve faced.
We're just asking for equitable chances to prove our capabilities, without barriers, just like any other candidate. Please make it easy for us!
Accessibility Essentials: Accessibility etiquette for using Google Meet
By Kelly Tabor, TAP Communications Manager
Love them or loathe them, virtual meetings are now an integral part of our work lives. By now, most of us at OIT are comfortable using Google Meet for team collaboration, quick chats and webinars. To ensure these virtual gatherings are accessible to all, here are some essential accessibility tips for using Google Meet:
Share meeting details in advance: Provide the meeting agenda and any other links or documents beforehand. This gives invitees a chance to review materials and makes the meeting more productive for everyone, especially those who require screen readers.
Enable live captions: Turn on live captions during meetings to assist deaf and hard-of-hearing attendees. This feature displays real-time text captions of the speaker's words, making it easier for everyone to follow the conversation. Note: Google Meet auto captions every meeting, so participants just need to turn them on to view captions.
Announce yourself: When contributing to a meeting, first say your name and what team you work with to help those who are blind or low-vision identify, or who have certain cognitive disabilities know who is speaking.
Turn on your camera: When you are speaking, facial expressions and lip-reading aid in communication for people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing, so keep your camera on!
Keep the chat in check: The chat feature is a useful tool for contributing to the meeting without interrupting the speaker. But for participants using screen readers, excessive chat text, particularly lengthy URLs, can limit their ability to participate in a meeting effectively, as the chat conversation is read aloud while people are speaking, making it difficult to hear either.
Use clear and concise language: When speaking in Google Meet, enunciate clearly and avoid talking too fast. Use plain language and avoid jargon so everyone can understand you, including participants who are hard-of-hearing, deaf or are non-native speakers.
Mute your mic: Background noise can be distracting, especially for those using screen readers or hearing aids, so mute your microphone when you're not speaking. Also, any noise in your environment will be picked up by the microphone and added to the automated captions and transcripts.
Provide visual context: Use screen sharing visuals like slide presentations to supplement the discussion. This helps participants who rely on visual cues to understand and follow the conversation. Consider using high-contrast visuals in your presentations like bold colors, large text, and clear images to make the content more accessible for individuals with low vision.
Provide ample time for Q&A: Leave space throughout the meeting to accommodate attendees who may need additional time to process information or formulate responses.
By keeping these accessibility etiquette guidelines in mind when using Google Meet, you’re helping to contribute to a more inclusive, accessible and productive workplace.
The TAP team is here to help everyone at OIT on the road to compliance, so please reach out to OIT_Accessibility@state.co.us with any questions.
Notable & Quotable
“Your (company) culture might attract employees with disabilities, but it's accessible technology that will keep us – and keep us thriving.”
- Eric Wright, lead technologist with global consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton