EIR Accessibility Policy, Chapter 1 - Overview

In This Chapter

Texas Health and Human Services (HHS) agencies must ensure that information and communications technology (ICT), including websites and applications, are accessible to people with disabilities. All employees are individually responsible for ensuring the accessibility of the ICT that they create, maintain, procure, or publish.

Note: ICT previously was referred to as electronic information resources (EIR).

1.1 Purpose and Scope

Federal law requires that all HHS agencies provide equal access to members of the public, stakeholders, and staff with disabilities who access information and/or services from any HHS agency. The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities Title 1, Texas Administrative Code (TAC), Chapter 206, Subchapter BExternal site and Chapter 213, Subchapters A and BExternal site. The rules at 1 TAC Chapter 206, Subchapter B, align Texas accessibility standards for ICT and state websites with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973External site, as amended (29 U.S.C. §794d) [hereafter, Section 508].

DIR rules permit agencies to exceed the minimum standards in Section 508. To align with the refresh, HHS agencies will conform to the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C’s) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) Version 2.0 Level AAExternal site for all ICT developed, procured, or modified on or after Jan. 1, 2017. Requirements in this policy are intended to ensure accessibility for both state employees and members of the public.

The guidelines lay the foundation necessary for anyone to access and use web content. Anyone who wants to use the web must have content that is:

  • Perceivable—Users must be able to perceive the information being presented. (It can’t be invisible to all of their senses.)
  • Operable—Users must be able to operate the interface. (The interface cannot require interaction that a user cannot perform.)
  • Understandable—Users must be able to understand the information as well as the operation of the interface. (The content or operation cannot be beyond their understanding.)
  • Robust—Users must be able to access the content as technologies advance. (As technologies and user agents evolve, the content should remain accessible.)

If any of these are not true, users with disabilities will not be able to use HHS ICT.

In WCAG 2.0, and in this policy, only those guidelines that address problems particular to people with disabilities have been included. This includes issues that block access or interfere with access to the Web more severely for people with disabilities.

1.1.1 State Employees

Section 2054.456, Texas Government Code, requires state agencies to provide employees who have disabilities with access to and use of information in developing, procuring, maintaining, and using ICT. This access and use must be comparable to that provided to employees without disabilities, unless this requirement imposes a significant difficulty or expense to the agency.

When claiming significant difficulty or expense, HHS agencies must seek an accessibility exception that includes a plan for an alternate means of access to the information or service and specifies the date the exception will expire (see Section 1.4, Compliance).

1.1.2 Members of the Public

Section 2054.457, Texas Government Code, requires state agencies to provide members of the public who have disabilities access to and use of information from the agency. This access must be comparable to that provided to members of the public without disabilities, unless this requirement imposes a significant difficulty or expense.

When claiming significant difficulty or expense, HHS agencies must seek an accessibility exception that includes a plan for an alternate means of access to the information or service and specifies the date the exception will expire (see Section 1.4, Compliance).

1.1.3 Information and Communications Technology (formerly known as 1 TAC§213.1(6), Electronic and Information Resources)

This item covers information technology and any equipment or interconnected system or subsystem of equipment used to create, convert, duplicate, or deliver data or information. ICT includes telecommunications products (such as telephones), information kiosks and transaction machines, websites, multimedia, and office equipment, such as copiers and fax machines.

ICT covered by this policy will have a user interface or be accessed through a user agent.

1.2 Governance

HHS will follow the following governance structure for enforcing this policy.

  • The Executive Commissioner is responsible for approving policy and exceptions.
  • The ICT Accessibility Steering Committee,
    • Responsible for:
      • Setting priorities for the Accessibility Workgroup.
      • Reviewing and approving or rejecting changes to the accessibility policy manual.
      • Reviewing requests for exceptions to the accessibility policy
    • Consists of:
      • Deputy Executive Commissioner for System Support Services
      • Director of Civil Rights Office
      • Program Area Managers
      • Senior-level managers
  • The HHS ICT Accessibility Workgroup,
    • Responsible for:
      • Monitoring and reporting on accessibility status of ICT
    • Consists of:
      • Accessibility Coordinators
      • Accessibility compliance specialists
      • Business Unit accessibility SMEs

1.3 Policy Application and Responsibilities

This policy manual applies to ICT developed, procured, maintained, or used by HHS agencies directly, and to HHS vendors and service providers who deliver products or services that include ICT. (See Chapter 2: Purchasing and Contracts for Information and Communication Technology.)

1.3.1 Responsibilities

All HHS staff are responsible for understanding how to apply this policy to all ICT that they create, maintain, procure, or publish. For example:

  • Staff who create ICT such as Microsoft Office documents, PDFs, computer-based training, and forms must ensure that they comply with this policy.
  • Staff who make purchasing decisions must ensure that the ICT purchased complies with this policy.
  • Staff who develop or maintain websites or web applications must ensure that those websites and applications comply with this policy.
  • Staff who publish ICT are responsible for requesting that the ICT provided for publication complies with this policy.
  • Managers are responsible for ensuring that their staff receive the training and support needed to comply with this policy.
  • Accessibility coordinators are responsible for maintaining the accessibility policy, determining and reporting on the agency’s level of compliance, evaluating and assisting with requests for exceptions to compliance, and providing support to staff.

HHS staff are not responsible for the accessibility of content on external websites that are not owned, managed, or contracted by HHS.

1.4 Compliance

Effective Jan. 1, 2017, all ICT developed, procured, or changed by an HHS agency must comply with WCAG 2.0 AA standards and with the accessibility standards specified in this chapter, unless an exception is approved by the agency’s executive director or an exemption is granted by DIR. (HHS agencies do not pursue or grant exemptions.) Exceptions are approved by the HHS Executive Commissioner for a limited time span and cover one ICT item. Exemptions cover a class of ICT and are only granted by the Department of Information Resources (DIR).

All ICT developed, procured, or changed before the effective date of this policy shall comply with the applicable standards in Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Texas Accessibility Standards adopted on Sept. 1, 2006.

1.4.1 Exception for Significant Difficulty or Expense

Any exception to this accessibility policy must be approved in writing by the HHS Executive Commissioner. See Chapter 3, Exceptions, for complete details.

Agencies shall maintain records of approved exceptions. (See Section 1.5, Record Retention Guidance for Accessibility Exception Forms, for more information.)

1.4.1.1 Alternative Methods of Access

When compliance imposes a significant difficulty or expense, agencies must provide equivalent information, data or service through an alternate method of access.

Examples of alternative methods of access include:

  • A version of the document in a different format
  • Telephone access to services or information
  • An accessible version of an Adobe Flash–based training with all of the same features

To be considered equivalent the alternative method of access must:

  • Provide the same or like features
  • Provide equivalent quality
  • Include the same information or data
  • Provide equivalent access to services

1.4.2 General Exceptions

This policy does not require agencies to install specific accessibility-related software or to attach an assistive technology device at a workstation of a state employee who does not have a disability.

In addition, provisions of this policy do not apply to products acquired by a contractor incidental to a contract, such as the contractor’s computer, telephone, fax machine, and other equipment not part of the deliverables required under the contract unless the equipment or ICT shall become the property of the state agency at the end of the contract.

1.4.2.1 Agency-owned Products

When agencies provide public access to information or data through ICT, such as websites or information kiosks, agencies are not required to:

  • make agency-owned products available at other locations to permit access to and use of the information by people with disabilities; or
  • purchase products to permit access to and use of information at other locations by people with disabilities.

1.4.2.2 Fundamental Alterations

The provisions of this policy manual do not require a fundamental alteration in the nature of a product or its components. For example, a drawing program must allow the user to draw a vector from one location to another. This policy would not require that this feature be removed, because to do so would be to fundamentally alter the program.

1.4.2.3 Building Maintenance and Monitoring Equipment

Equipment located in spaces frequented only by service personnel for maintenance, repair, or occasional monitoring is exempt from the requirements described in this policy. Examples include environmental controls or utility metering equipment.

1.4.3 General Exemptions

The Department of Information Resources (DIR) may determine that general class of ICT is exempt from accessibility compliance because of the inherent accessibility limitations of that resource (for example, geographic information systems). [1 TAC§213.17(5)External site]. A list of product classes exempt from accessibility compliance is available on the DIR website.

1.5 Record Retention Guidance for Accessibility Exception Forms

Each agency must follow its own records retention schedule for retaining copies of accessibility exception forms and related documentation, including accessibility testing reports associated with the exception request.

The retention of exception forms should coincide with the contract lifecycle for any purchased ICT, including contract renewals. This period is generally for 3 years.

1.5.1 Alerts and Notifications

The ICT accessibility coordinator should notify the following people before an exception expires or before it is scheduled for deletion:

  • staff member or department submitting the exception and
  • contract manager for an exception related to purchased ICT goods or services or for exceptions to ICT developed by a contractor in response to a solicitation.

1.5.2 Maximum Retention Period

Retention schedule priority should be given to the longest period for any of the following criteria:

  • Agency records retention schedule;
  • Duration of the exception period;
  • Contract life cycle for goods or services covered by the exception including any anticipated contract renewals; or
  • 5 years from the date of the signed exception.