Web Accessibility, Closed Captioning & Section 5-0-What?

By: Danielle Chazen

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From workplaces to classrooms and the public sector to private educational institutions, ensuring inclusion is provided to individuals with disabilities isn’t only the right thing to do, it’s the law. However, legal guidelines and their defined details can be daunting to many.

The legal requirements and components set in place today are based on various laws which sought to offer equality in as many personal, professional and academic scenarios as possible. A standard was set by The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, a law which was established to require federal and federally funded programs to promote the treatment and inclusion of individuals with disabilities. The Rehabilitation Act requires affirmative action in employment by the federal government and government contractors, prohibiting discrimination on the basis of disability.

The law applies to programs conducted by federal agencies, programs garnering federal financial assistance, in federal employment and in federal contractors’ employment practices. The standards for determining employment discrimination under the Rehabilitation Act are the same as those referenced in Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which is more commonly referenced and reported on in the news greatly today.

Although the Act was initially established as a means of focusing on inequality within employment, it has since broadened and expanded to put further emphasis on the technology being utilized due to the influx of Internet usage over the last 20 years. When workplaces, classrooms and online environments are not accessible to individuals with disabilities, those responsible may have to pay the piper and also risk harming their reputation.

With these factors in mind, Verbit was established. Its leaders set a goal of creating a solution which tackles the many accessibility issues which arise in the legal, education, media and corporate sectors, among others. With greater focus on website accessibility and offering tech-first solutions to guarantee equity to individuals with disabilities, businesses, government agencies and universities alike now turning to technologies like transcription and closed captioning.

Sensory disabled groups, among many others, are often alienated when it comes to modern technology. Many individuals working with these individuals often do not know that their websites, workplaces, content or training sessions are not accessible. Verbit’s team aims to provide not only the technologies to fix these issues, but offer further education on the topics of web accessibility, legal requirements and the ADA. Additionally, so many individuals aside from those with disabilities will benefit from the changes being made in this realm.

With greater tools and technologies at the disposal of today’s educators and employers, there is a greater chance that learning environments and workplaces may lack in their accessibility measures. However, the right tools and technologies are also at the disposal of professionals leading today’s schools and businesses to help them solve accessibility issues and ensure individuals with disabilities can participate with equity.A woman sitting on the couch while using a tablet.

Diving into The Rehabilitation Act of 1973’s Section 504 and Section 508

The Act consists of a few sections, but Section 504 and Section 508 are often the most pertinent to this topic. In 1977, new rules were implemented via Section 504, which offered greater emphasis on delivering the same rights to people with disabilities in line with the same rights attributed to civil rights groups in 1964. Section 504 provides equal opportunities for children and adults with disabilities in the realms of education, employment and additional settings. It asks that reasonable accommodations, such as special study area or assistance, be provided to help these individuals.

The act says that, “No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States shall solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from the participation in, or be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance or any program or activity conducted by any Executive agency or by the United States Postal Service.”

Section 504 aims to create educational models specific to catering to the needs of individuals with disabilities. By law, it should be implemented in any local educational agency, system of vocational education, or other school system.

In 1986, Section 508 was also implemented, however with less success than that of section 504. By 1998, it was amended to the Rehabilitation Act and signed into law successfully. Section 508 focuses on the advancement of technology. It’s designed to ensure that information technology systems and web content is accessible to all. States must ensure that all programs using technology comply with Section 508 at a satisfactory level in order to qualify for any type of program funding.

Section 508 requires Federal electronic and information technology to be accessible to people with disabilities, whether they be employees or members of the general public. An accessible IT system is defined as one that can be operated in a variety of ways and therefore doesn’t rely on a single sense or ability of the user. This definition ensures individuals with visual impairments, those who are Deaf or hard of hearing and others are provided with technology that they can utilize effectively.

From a school’s or business’s website itself to the videos it’s uploading on social to the training and courses its conducting to the events its holding, there are no shortage of online formats which require accessibility and accommodations for the inclusion of all individuals encountering them. While the law may be trickier to gauge, the fixes are simple.

Verbit’s solutions, including closed captioning, transcription and audio description, meet Section 504 and Section 508 guidelines as outlined. Verbit also meets ADA guidelines and all three levels: Level I – Asynchronous media (PP), Level II – Synchronous Media (Live) and Level III – Audio Description (AD). Providing compatibility on all three levels is crucial to us to ensure our partners and customers are meeting legal requirements and providing equity as many individuals as possible.

We also try to make it as simple as possible for them to do so, with tools that integrate easily into their current systems and processes. Contact us for more information today.