[nfbmi-talk] FW: [msb-alumni] Michigan Education Department to Make Website More Accessible

Fred Wurtzel f.wurtzel at att.net
Wed Jul 15 23:15:56 UTC 2015



From: msb-alumni-bounce at freelists.org
[mailto:msb-alumni-bounce at freelists.org] On Behalf Of Steve
Sent: Wednesday, July 15, 2015 1:48 PM
To: msb-alumni at freelists.org
Subject: [msb-alumni] Michigan Education Department to Make Website More


Education department to make website more accessible Lori Higgins, Detroit
Free Press The Michigan Department of Education has a mountainous task ahead
of it to comply with a federal directive and make its website accessible to
people with disabilities. The brunt of that task: Captioning up to 800
videos and taking up to 8,000 documents and either converting them so
they're accessible to people with visual impairments or deleting them from
the website, www.michigan.gov/mde . The changes will make it easier for
people with disabilities, particularly those with visual and hearing
impairments, to access material on the site. "This is the right thing to
do," said Martin Ackley, spokesman for the MDE. "People with disabilities
want to participate and watch the videos or read things on the website. We
understand that. Related : Summer at school? Cranbrook hosts Detroit teens
The department entered into a voluntary resolution agreement with the U.S.
Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights ' stemming from a federal
complaint that alleged the MDE was discriminating against people with
disabilities. But the agreement will have time-consuming, potentially costly
and far-reaching implications. The cost of compliance is unknown, Ackley
said. And it'll become part of an effort across all state departments to
ensure all websites, documents and printed materials are accessible to
people with disabilities. Advocate's complaint It began with a complaint
filed in February 2014 by Marcie Lipsitt of Franklin, an outspoken advocate
for people with disabilities. The MDE at the time had created a special page
on its website to provide information and seek public comment about some
controversial proposed changes to special education rules. And Lipsitt was
outraged because the only way people could comment was by logging onto a
website or sending comments through the regular mail. "I had serious
concerns about the accessibility to adults with disabilities who wanted to
provide input," Lipsitt said. MDE later began allowing e-mail comments.
Related: EAA chancellor tightens reins over grant for teachers The civil
rights agency found that the web page itself was accessible. Anyone who uses
some type of assistive technology to read a web page ' like a screen reader
or speech recognition program ' could do so. But the videos and PDF
documents on the page had problems. The videos, for instance, were captioned
but the buttons on the videos weren't properly labeled. That meant a screen
reader used by a visually impaired person would be unable to find the play
button. And, while PDF documents reviewed were accessible in some ways,
neither allowed a person using screen-reading software to identify the
document. The civil rights agency also noted that the site didn't provide a
way for people to report problems accessing information. In addition, the
department was flagged because the nondiscrimination notice on its website
didn't specify that it doesn't discriminate on the basis of disability.
Whole website While the complaint addressed one page on the website, MDE's
agreement covers the entire website. The agreement requires MDE designate an
employee or employees to ensure the department's website complies with
federal rules. Some employees will be trained. Ackley said the volume of
work required means the website will be fully accessible by June 2017. "This
is going to eventually affect every state department," Ackley said. "We'll
be the first agency to become fully compliant. Caleb Buhs, spokesman for the
state Department of Technology, Management and Budget, said it's been a
priority for years to ensure state websites and documents are accessible.
The DTMB oversees all state websites. "We have a tool we can run across a
site that alerts us to any ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) issues,"
Buhs said. But now there's a broader effort. The state will soon finalize
plans to ensure accessibility across all departments. More complaints
Lipsitt has filed similar complaints against other public agencies,
including Oakland Community College, where her son Andrew Lipsitt takes
classes. OCC recently entered into a voluntary resolution agreement,
according to a letter Lipsitt received recently from the civil rights
agency. Janet Roberts, spokeswoman for OCC, said she couldn't comment on
specifics. "We are aware of the situation and actually have been working for
more than a year, well before this complaint was registered, to improve our
website," Roberts said. "That process will include a new content management
system which allows us to ensure that we are ADA compliant. This is an
important issue for us and we are working to ensure that our site is
accessible to all. Contact Lori Higgins: 313-222-6651,
lhiggins at freepress.com

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