By Cherie Takemoto
Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended by the Workforce Investment Act of 1998, requires that electronic and information technology developed with federal funding be accessible to people with disabilities. This includes training materials developed with federal funds that are disseminated to users via the internet. Currently, I direct the National Clearinghouse on Rehabilitation Training Materials (NCRTM). This contract offers technical assistance to individuals and organizations who submit resources to the NCRTM. Even though Section 508 has been in effect since 2001, we find many training developers are not aware of how to create or remediate their materials so everyone can access and benefit from them.
When I first came to New Editions Consulting, I was impressed by the accessibility knowledge that surrounded me. One of New Editions’ areas of expertise is accessible Information Technology development services. The websites we create and support are designed with universal access for all in mind. I have coworkers who regularly use accessibility tools, and our AbleData team helps identify assistive technology solutions for consumers. I was a little intimidated by my colleagues’ expertise, so I shied away from creating or remediating electronic content myself. Instead, I sent my documents to our experts so that they could “work their magic” and make them accessible.
Three years ago, My Linh Bui, New Editions Senior Accessibility Analyst, conducted a a training on document accessibility for New Editions staff at one of our Education and Training (EAT) Lunch Sessions.. Some of what she shared seemed complicated to me, but I learned how to use the built-in tool bar in Microsoft Word to create accessible word documents. I picked up additional skills at the next EATtraining as My Linh taught us how to use the built-in accessibility checkers in Microsoft Office. While she did warn us that these automated checkers do not eliminate the need for a manual accessibility check, I like how the tool can identify issues and guide me through the steps. Last week, Cammie Truesdell, New Editions Senior Accessibility Analyst, conducted a training on the correct way to use alternative text to describe graphics.
My New Year’s resolution for 2017 is to learn more and do more to make sure that everyone can access electronic content. That is one of the reasons I will be co-moderating a community of practice (CoP) with Rachel Romeo, New Editions Technical Specialist, from January 9 through March 17, 2017. Hosted by the NCRTM, this CoP will ask participants to share their frustrations and fixes related to accessible materials with weekly topical themes. This group is for experts, newbies, people who have disabilities, and folks who may not intend to actively participate, but wish to learn more about making electronic training materials accessible. In addition to the New Editions Section 508 team, a number of other accessibility experts are joining us to provide their perspectives and expertise. We hope that this CoP offers a safe space to ponder and learn about how to make the digital world more accessible to all.
We are using Facebook exclusively as the platform to host this activity. If you already have an account, simply request to join the group with this link: https://www.facebook.com/groups/Section508/
If you don’t have an account, we suggest you create a “dummy” profile that you can delete after the duration of the CoP. For those interested in the resources, but not necessarily the interactive aspect of this activity, NCRTM staff are archiving each week’s resources online at: http://neweditions.net/Section508-CoP.
For questions about this CoP or the NCRTM can be directed to NCRTM@neweditions.net.