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Making the CDCR website accessible to all

It’s been just over a year since the CDCR public website was certified compliant with web accessibility laws. That certification was the result of a law (AB434) which required agency Secretaries and their Chief Information Officers to certify their website complies with federal and state codes concerning web content accessibility.  The law, which took effect July 1, 2019, also requires CDCR to renew (re-certify) every other year. As we prepare to certify again in 2021, we should look back at what we’ve accomplished and also forward to the work we need to do.

During the year leading up to AB434, staff in both OPEC and EIS created a roadmap to ensure the website would comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  This was a complicated challenge that took considerable resources. Part of the task was re-building the website so that its structure was inherently accessible. We migrated all web content to WordPress, a popular Content Management System.

Another important task was removing outdated material and remediating non-accessible documents that remained. CDCR has dozens of content managers responsible for web content associated with their office. They were trained to use WordPress and some also learned to assess and remediate documents. All of this effort allowed CDCR to meet AB434’s July 1, 2019, deadline.

During this journey to full compliance, we had to remove large amounts of old or non-essential content that was not accessible, including thousands of documents and images; many other documents were converted to web pages. However, assessing and remediating PDF documents was a huge and costly challenge. Many PDFs could not be converted to web pages, so CDCR hired a contractor to help remediate high priority files, while other PDFs were removed. That vendor contract ended last year. CDCR must now incorporate the concept and practice of document accessibility into our day-to-day document sharing and publishing procedures to ensure that we continue to be ADA compliant.

While the accessibility movement sprang from advocacy by people with disabilities, the reality is that accessibility benefits us all. The principles of accessibility, as they pertain to websites, amount to simple good practice. Just as you ensure that your document is correctly written and spelled, remember that it should also be accessible if it is to be posted. Our department’s content managers are responsible for assessing PDFs before they are published to a CDCR web page, but it is not their responsibility to make the file accessible.  

If you have questions, need training or you’re interested in resources available for your program, contact CDCR Webmaster Thomas Gonzales at (916) 698-5948.