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Washington State Web Accessibility Laws

  • Washington joins a handful of other states that have enacted a state web accessibility policy modeled after Section 508. Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act references the need for digital information, products, and services provided by the federal government to be fully accessible to Americans with disabilities.

    Washington state’s web accessibility policy cites Section 508 and the Americans with Disabilities Act, as well as the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative, as providing “best practices for procuring, creating, and maintaining accessible information technology.” It reads:

    Information Technology should be procured, developed, maintained, and used so that it is accessible to individuals with disabilities, unless it creates an undue burden on the agency.

    Information Technology, including Web sites, Web-based applications, software systems, and electronically published documents, should provide the same functionality to individuals with disabilities as it provides to others.

    The policy notes that the state will observe WCAG 2.0 design standards at the time of the Section 508 refresh.

    All Washington state offices and their websites must be Section 508 compliant internally and externally. This includes state colleges and universities, which must ensure than all eLearning materials are designed inclusively. That means adding alt text to graphs, providing transcripts of audio recordings, and closed captioning online video, for a start.

    The University of Washington sets a strong example for other institutions of higher education around the country. Its state- and federally-funded DO-IT program — which stands for Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology — is on the cutting edge of accessible web design for education.

    UW Technology Accessibility Specialist Terrill Thompson presented alongside developers from YouTube, JW Player, and Video.js for the webinar The Future of Video Player Accessibility, where he showcased DO-IT’s custom multimedia player, Able Player.

    Able Player was designed with accessibility in mind: it’s keyboard-accessible, it has good visual contrast for controls, and it accepts closed captions and audio descriptions tracks, as well as a sign-language sidecar video as needed. Able Player is open-source and available on GitHub.

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