We encourage disability advocates to submit a comment to the U.S. Dept. of Education’s proposed regulations to 34 CFR Parts 200 and 299 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) regarding the use of SEA and LEA Web sites to distribute information required under ESSA.
Use the information below to compose your comment and submit at https://www.regulations.gov/#!submitComment;D=ED-2016-OESE-0032-0001
Please submit your comment by August 1, 2016.
SEA and LEA Web site accessibility
The proposed regulations include numerous references to the Web site of SEAs and LEAs as an acceptable means by which to meet the requirement to disseminate information to the public. For example, SEAs may provide their proposed state plan (for public comment), approved state plan and annual state report cards on their Web sites. LEAs may post annual report cards on their Web sites.
However, it is noteworthy that ED’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has recently reported receiving numerous complaints regarding the inaccessibility of Web sites operated by SEAs and LEAs, indicating that serious problems exist for people with disabilities. In a press release dated June 29, 2016, OCR announced agreements to resolve web site accessibility complaints made against SEAs and LEAs located in seven states and one territory.
It is clear from the language in proposed regulations to 34 CFR Parts 200 and 299 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act, that ED is failing to recognize the nature, scope and critical importance of Web site accessibility issues being reported to its Office for Civil Rights. It is not sufficient to suggest by merely cross referencing the proposed notice requirements of §§200.21(b)(1) through (3) that States, LEAs, and schools, as recipients of federal funds, are meeting the legal requirements for ensuring any information disseminated via their Web sites is accessible to all individuals, including those with disabilities consistent with their obligations under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and its implementing regulation at 34 C.F.R. Part 104.
Given the growing body of evidence that SEA and LEA Web sites are, with rare exceptions, not accessible to people with disabilities, ED should include in its final regulations a provision that SEA and LEA Web sites used for dissemination of information required under ESSA must meet minimum accessibility standards, such as the W3C’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Level AA and the Web Accessibility Initiative Accessible Rich Internet Applications Suite (WAI-ARIA) 1.0 for web content. These guidelines have been referenced by OCR in recent resolution agreements.
Specific references to dissemination via SEA and LEA Web sites in the proposed regulations:
§ 200.30 Annual State report card.
(c) Accessibility. Each State report card must be in a format and language to the extent practicable, that parents can understand in compliance with the requirements under § 200.21 (b)(1) through (3).
(d) Dissemination and availability.
(1)A State must—
(i) Disseminate widely to the public the State report card by, at a minimum, making it available on a single page of the SEA’s Web site; and
(ii) Include on the SEA’s Web site—
(A) The report card required under § 200.31 for each LEA in the State; and
(B) The annual report to the Secretary required under section 1111(h)(5) of the Act.
§ 200.31 Annual LEA report card.
(c) Accessibility. Each LEA report card must be in a format and language, to the extent practicable, that parents can understand in compliance with the requirements under § 200.21(b)(1) through (3).
(d) Dissemination and availability.
(1) An LEA report card must be accessible to the public.
(2) At a minimum the LEA report card must be made available on the LEA’s Web site, except that an LEA that does not operate a Web site may provide the information to the public in another manner determined by the LEA.
§ 200.32 Description and results of a State’s accountability system.
(b) Reference to State plan. To the extent that a State plan or another location on the SEA’s Web site provides a description of the accountability system elements required in paragraph
(a)(1) through (5) of this section that complies with the requirements under § 200.21(b)(1) through (3), a State or LEA may provide the Web address or URL of, or a direct link to, such State plan or location on the SEA’s Web site to meet the reporting requirement for such accountability system elements.
§ 299.13 Publication of State plan.
(f) After the Secretary approves a consolidated State plan or an individual program State plan, an SEA must publish its approved its approved consolidated State plan or individual program State plan on the SEA’s Web site in a format and language, to the extent practicable, that the public can access and understand in compliance with the requirements under § 200.21 (b)(1) through (3).
§ 299.18 Supporting excellent educators.
(v) The information required under paragraphs (c)(4)(i) through (iv) of this section in a manner that is easily accessible and comprehensible to the general public, available at least on a public Web site, and, to the extent practicable, provided in a language that parents of students enrolled in all schools in the State can understand, in compliance with the requirements under § 200.21(b)(1) through (3). If the information required under paragraphs (c)(4)(i) through (iv) is made available in ways other than on a public Web site, it must be provided in compliance with the requirements under § 200.21(b)(1) through (3).
§ 200.21 (b)(1) through (3) – referenced in all of the above sections, reads as follows:
(1) Be in an understandable and uniform format;
(2) Be, to the extent practicable, written in a language that parents can understand or, if it is not practicable to provide written translations to a parent with limited English proficiency, be orally translated for such parent; and
(3) Be, upon request by a parent or guardian who is an individual with a disability as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. 12102, provided in an alternative format accessible to that parent.