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CCHCS marks anniversary of ADA with a look into document accessibility

By David Bennewitz, CCHCS Webmaster
and Jennifer Corcoran, CCHCS Accessibility Coordinator

On July 26, 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed into law the Americans with Disabilities Act, also known as ADA. To mark the occasion, we celebrate the landmark legislation that strives to provide equal access to employment opportunities and protection from discrimination for individuals with disabilities.

In remembrance of the 30th anniversary, California Correctional Health Care Services (CCHCS) is looking back at the recent accessibility project to ensure the organization’s website and public documents are accessible for everyone.

When then Governor Jerry Brown signed into law Assembly Bill 434 (AB 434) in October 2017, it required state agencies to certify that any public facing websites complied with specified accessibility standards by July 1, 2019.

This was a massive undertaking involving the remediation of thousands of documents and web pages. This important effort brought together all disciplines from CCHCS including business analysts, technical staff, program users, subject matter experts and vendor partners.

During the course of this massive project, the AB 434 Accessibility Team worked together to identify, review, test and update public content to ensure that it met accessibility standards for all users.

Hundreds of staff were trained and additional screen-reader licenses, such as Non-Visual Desktop Access (NVDA) and Job Access with Speech (JAWS), were procured for those who wanted to learn more advanced practices for making content ADA compliant.

Finally, on the morning of June 30, 2019, Richard Kirkland, Chief Deputy Receiver, and Cheryl Larson, Chief Information Officer and Director of Information Technology, signed a Website Accessibility Certification. The certification declared the CCHCS was maintained to comply with California accessibility requirements.

This was a major accomplishment for all involved that required no additional contracts to complete this task; efforts were accomplished internally using CCHCS staff.

However, the steps to achieve and remain in compliance with ADA requirements did not stop there. CCHCS moved forward with updating the website, documents and software to be mobile responsive and accessible to all users and devices.

New Information Technology applications are routinely tested during development for ADA compliance and vendors are required to work with the required accessibility standards. Additionally CCHCS hired a dedicated Accessibility Coordinator to monitor the integrity of documents posted and provide ongoing training for program staff.

The future for CCHCS accessibility looks very busy and bright! In the near future, we look forward to:

  • Continuing to provide valuable training resources to staff, including how to use a screen reader;
  • Procuring new software to further help certify content as ADA compliant;
  • Redesigning Lifeline and working towards making all internal content accessible (2021); and
  • Recertifying the accessibility of our public facing website by July 1, 2021, and biennially thereafter.

None of this progress and work on future projects could have been accomplished without the dedication and willingness to learn from all CCHCS staff involved. Thank you for all of your efforts, feedback, and hard work. We will soon reach a point when accessibility will become second nature to us; much like attention to spelling and grammar. While there is still much to accomplish, we are making great progress to ensure equal access to everyone on all CCHCS platforms.

The former CEO and current L.A. Clippers owner Steve Ballmer says accessibility is important for everyone.

“Accessible design is good design — it benefits people who don’t have disabilities as well as people who do. Accessibility is all about removing barriers and providing the benefits of technology for everyone,” he said.