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Introduction

The State of California is at the forefront when it comes to ensuring equal rights for people with disabilities. The State has supplemented Federal laws (Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act) with it’s own state-level legislation to prevent discrimination against people with disabilities.

Relevant laws

The California Assembly Bill 434 (AB 434) introduced in 2019 is relevant to all state agencies and entities.

For businesses in California, the relevant legislation is the California Civil Code Section 51 and the Unruh Civil Rights Act.

What is California Assembly Bill 434 (AB 434)?

The California AB 434 law requires websites of all state agencies and entities to be accessible to users of all abilities. Specifically websites must conform (at minimum) to Level AA of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0.

Before July 1, 2019 and every two years thereafter, the state agency Director must post on their website a signed California Department of Technology (CDT)  Website Accessibility Certification form or their own form confirming that the agency’s internet web site complies with  the  Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, or a subsequent version, published by the Web Accessibility Initiative of the World Wide Web Consortium at minimum Level AA success criteria.

The Director should also provide leadership and support for digital accessibility compliance within the organization as a whole.

Under the California AB 434 law, state agencies working in California need to achieve a level of conformance. This makes sure that their website doesn’t have accessibility issues such as poor color contrast ratio and keyboard traps. It specifically applies to only state agency websites, and not private businesses.

State agencies can be defined as any one of the following:

  • Transport Agency
  • Department of Certification and rehabilitation  
  • Department of Veterans Affairs 
  • Natural resources agency 
  • Business, consumer service, and Housing Agency 
  • California Health and human service agency
  • Labor and Workforce Development Agency 
  • California Environmental Protection Agency  
  • Department of Food and Agriculture

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)

The Web Content Accessibility Guideline was formed by the World Wide Web Consortium. It is a set of web standards that make sure the Internet is a more inclusive and accessible space for all.

In 2018, W3C published WCAG 2.1, which provided additional standards to WCAG 2.0, which was initially published in 2008. The compliance guidelines of WCAG apply to mobile content, dynamic content, communication technologies, and multimedia and non-web information.

Since then, WCAG has been updated to version 2.1, and version 2.2 is scheduled for official release in the ending months of 2021. The guideline’s subsequent versions have added new success criteria.

California AB 434 and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)

California AB 434 requires all state agencies and associated contractors to make sure that their website complies with the Level AA standards of WCAG 2.0.

This level seems to be ideal for most organizations because some elements of Level AAA conformance are not likely to be achieved in practical use.

Under the California AB 433 law, all state agencies working in California must publish a signed certification on their home page. The certificate emphasizes that they conform to the level AA standard of WCAG 2.0.

How State Agencies can ensure that they meet WCAG 2.0 guidelines?

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 is a specification of internationally recognized guidelines that covers a wide range of recommendations for making Web content more accessible.

These guidelines are organized under four principles, also known as POUR.

  • Perceivable
  • Operable
  • Understandable
  • Robust

For each guideline, testable success criteria are provided to allow WCAG to be used where-ever requirements and conformance testing are necessary. For example, in design specification, purchasing, regulation, and contractual agreements. There are levels of conformance: A (lowest), AA, and AAA (highest).

State agencies in California have to conform to Level AA guidelines:

Perceivable

A website is deemed to be perceivable if both the information it contains (its content) and the components of its user interface (clickable links, text boxes, buttons and so on) are presented so that all users can perceive them using one or other of their senses. In other words, if any of a website’s content or controls are invisible to any user, then the website fails the perceivability test.

Guideline 1.2: Time-based media

Provide alternatives for time-based media.

  • Provide captions for all live audio content in synchronized media.
  • Provide an audio description for all prerecorded video content in synchronized media.

Guideline 1.3: Adaptable

Create content that can be presented in different ways (e.g simpler layout) without losing information or structure.

  • Don’t restrict content view and operation to a single display orientation (portrait or landscape), unless a specific display orientation is essential.
  • The purpose of each input field collecting information about the user should be easily identifiable.

Guideline 1.4: Distinguishable

Content should be easy for users to see and hear. More so, separate foreground from background.

  • Contrast ratio should be at least 4.5:1 for normal text and at least 3:1 for large-scale visual presentation.
  • Ensure text can be resized without assistive technology up to 200 percent without loss of content or functionality.
  • Convey information through text rather than images of text if the technologies being used can achieve the visual presentation.
  • Ensure content can be presented without loss of information or functionality, and without horizontally and vertically scrolling.
  • The contrast ratio should be 3:1 for User Interface components and graphical objects in visual presentation.
  • Ensure no loss of content or functionality occurs by changing style property example: spacing.
  • Where keyboard focus triggers additional content to become visible and then hidden, provide a mechanism to dismiss the additional content.
  • Guideline 1.4: Distinguishable

Operable

User interface components and navigation must be operable.

Guideline 2.4: Navigable

  • Ensure more than one way is available to locate a Web page within a set of Web pages except the Web Page is a step in a process.
  • Ensure headings and labels describe topic or purpose.
  • The keyboard operator user interface should have a mode of operation where the keyboard focus indicator is visible.

Understandable

Information and the operation of user interface must be understandable.

Guideline 3.1: Readable

  • Ensure the human language of each passage or phrase in the content can be programmatically determined except for technical terms and vernacular.

Guideline 3.2: Predictable

  • Ensure navigational mechanisms that are repeated on multiple Web pages occur in the same relative order, unless a change is initiated by the user.
  • Ensure components that have the same functionality within a set of Web pages are identified consistently.

Guideline 3.3: Input Assistance

Help users avoid and correct mistakes.

  • If an input error is automatically detected and suggestions for correction are known, then it should be provided to the user.
  • Provide a mechanism for confirming and correcting information before finalizing the submission for Web pages that cause legal commitments or financial transactions.

Robust

Content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies.

Guideline 4.1: Compatible

  • Ensure status messages can be programmatically determined through role or properties and presented to the user by assistive technologies without receiving focus.

What happens if State Agencies comply with AB 434?

For State agencies and entities compliance means reduced legal risk, improved ability to attract and retain the employees regardless of physical ability, and enhanced ability to deliver services to all citizens.

How can State Agencies know if their website complies with AB 434 law?

While state agencies have to comply with federal and state accessibility laws, the technical requirements for these legislations is to achieve conformance with WCAG 2.0 Level AA standards.

State agencies and entities have to carry out periodic manual and automated accessibility testing of their websites, web pages, and web content to make sure they meet the conformance criteria.

About codemantra

codemantra is a leading Intelligent Document Processing (IDP) Solutions Provider. Its AI-driven platform automates digital document accessibility compliance; captures, classifies, and extracts data; and transforms documents into any output format.

How codemantra’s accessibility solution can help State Agencies?

codemantra’s AI-driven platform accessibilityInsight performs automated validation, generates compliance report, checks document accessibility levels, and allows interactive remediation.

codemantra empowers federal and state agencies to make their websites and digital content in various formats like PDF, Word, PPT, Excel, etc., accessible and compliant with ADA, section 508, and WCAG 2.1 standards.

Contact us: 1 (800) 769-9715. Email us at info@codemantra.com to learn more about ADA and Section 508 compliance for websites and web content.

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