By Dawn Watkins — Mar 13, 2018 11:00 AM
So, you’ve received a letter from Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR). No need to panic – we’re here to walk you through the complaint process, what to expect, and what’s expected of you.
What is an Office of Civil Rights (OCR) complaint?
The Office of Civil Rights can receive complaints of discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability, or age from anyone. After receiving a complaint, the OCR will review it and determine if it’s valid. If valid, they may open an investigation. The OCR’s goal is to make the internet a better place – especially by promptly resolving these complaints and avoiding court cases.
If the OCR determines that your website fails to comply with web accessibility standards, they will attempt to secure a voluntary resolution agreement with you. As part of that resolution agreement, you will be asked to address accessibility issues on your website.
This is the time to talk to an accessibility expert to determine a plan to work toward accessibility compliance. While timelines differ in most cases, you must agree to a resolution agreement within 60 days of receiving a letter. This means you have agreed to become compliant within a timeline determined by your case.
What are the major steps in the process?
While the OCR remediation process can be broken down into the following three key steps it is important to note the key objectives within each step. Keep in mind, they are often dependent on one another and require full commitment from your organization.
- Resolution Agreement:
The resolution agreement will need to describe the specific plan of action you will take to address the area(s) of noncompliance. It is important to include a plan for remediation, commonly called a “plan for new content.”
The plan for new content outlines detailed internal plans for compliance, testing, policies, and training. Once you complete this plan, your organization will submit it along with your selection for the auditor of record. The auditor of record can be an internal resource or external third party, depending on the person’s qualifications. If OCR accepts your auditor, that person is responsible for overseeing all components of testing and reporting in relation to the complaint.
After the OCR reviews and approves the resolution agreement, plan for new content, and auditor, testing can begin. Automated and manual testing are combined to paint a complete picture of the health and overall compliance
- Maintaining Compliance
Once you have submitted your corrective action plan and the OCR has approved it, your organization can put the plan in motion. Your corrective action plan will likely involve creating policies and procedures to ensure accessibility is addressed in content, projects, and procurement. It will outline training procedures and how your organization will maintain accessibility education internally. It is also important to note that media files, PDF documents, and other digital materials need realistic timelines for compliance.
If you’re not sure where to start with this process – Siteimprove can help. We have a team of experienced accessibility consultants who can provide guidance during the OCR remediation process. Siteimprove’s automated platform can provide reports to help you track website items that are corrected and updated. We can also offer manual testing services throughout the process – even after new tools or software have been added to the site.*
How do you continue to show progress?
You’ve addressed the complaint, made a plan, and put that plan in motion. But, you are not in the clear quite yet. For most complaints, the OCR monitors your progress following your submitted action plan. Here are a couple things to keep in mind should that be the case for you.
Website accessibility training for staff and faculty is almost always mandatory. This creates awareness and can be tied in with your daily policies and procedures. The OCR may ask for periodic reports of staff who have completed training. If you are looking for resources and a place to start, Siteimprove offers free accessibility courses through the Siteimprove Academy. The best part is – these courses do not require a Siteimprove subscription and can be accessed by anyone.
On-going monitoring and reporting
All in all, OCR complaints cannot be ignored and should be acted upon quickly. The steps in the OCR process are detailed and it is vital you allow enough time to address them within your organization. If you do not respond to OCR complaints in a timely matter, further action will be brought
If you would like to learn more about the Siteimprove Intelligence Platform, manual testing options, or the Siteimprove Academy, please fill out the form below.
*To be eligible for assistance from Siteimprove during the OCR process, you must have a subscription to the Siteimprove Intelligence Platform.
**The views/advice reflected in this blog post are held solely by the author.