What is an OCR letter?

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is responsible for enforcing civil rights laws, including those related to disability, in certain programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance (including public and private schools, and colleges and universities).

An OCR letter may be sent to an organization to notify them of a complaint or concern related to website accessibility for people with disabilities. It may outline the specific allegations or issues identified with the organization’s website and may request information, documentation, or remedial action to address the accessibility concerns. OCR letters may also provide guidance on how to achieve compliance with applicable laws and regulations and may specify deadlines or timelines for the organization to respond or take corrective measures.

OCR letters are a part of the enforcement process carried out by the OCR to ensure compliance with federal civil rights laws, and organizations that receive an OCR letter related to website accessibility should take the matter seriously and respond appropriately to address the concerns raised. It’s important to work with legal professionals who specialize in disability rights and website accessibility to ensure appropriate steps are taken in response to an OCR letter to achieve compliance and avoid potential legal consequences.

What should you do if you receive an OCR letter?

Here are the general steps an organization in the United States should consider taking upon receipt of an OCR letter regarding website accessibility:

Review and acknowledge receipt

It is important to carefully review the letter and acknowledge receipt. The OCR letter may provide specific details about the alleged accessibility violations and request a response within a certain timeframe.

Conduct a thorough accessibility audit

You should conduct a comprehensive accessibility audit of your website to identify any accessibility issues. This may include evaluating the website for compliance with accessibility standards, such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 or 2.1, and conducting user testing with individuals with disabilities to identify any barriers to access.

You may not know where to begin, because accessibility is quite a complex topic. We’d suggest contacting Silktide who can provide you with an initial accessibility assessment of your website in the form of a free web accessibility report.

The report is interactive and helps you understand the issues, who they affect, and how you can approach fixing them.

Develop a remediation plan

Once accessibility issues are identified, the organization should develop a plan for remediation. This may include fixing identified accessibility issues on the website, implementing accessibility best practices for future content creation, and providing accessible alternatives for content that cannot be made fully accessible.

Silktide’s accessibility platform will help you create a plan because it lists out all accessibility problems in order of priority and explains clearly what you need to do to fix them.

Engage with the OCR and respond appropriately

The organization should communicate and cooperate with the OCR in a timely manner. This may involve providing updates on the progress of website accessibility improvements, responding to specific questions or requests from the OCR, and demonstrating a good-faith effort to address the accessibility concerns raised in the OCR letter.

You can share your progress using Silktide’s reports, which are a historical record of how your website performed at a certain point in time. It’s a good way to show your commitment and progress.

Train staff to raise accessibility awareness

You should provide training to staff responsible for website content creation and maintenance on accessibility best practices and the importance of website accessibility. It is also important to raise awareness among staff and stakeholders about the consequences of inaccessible websites and the legal requirements for accessibility.

The difficulty with accessibility is that it’s a complex topic, and if you point people to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines they’re unlikely to understand them.  Silktide has produced a lot of training material in the platform, so every issue has a helpful explanation and video.  We have materials available on our YouTube channel and we provide accessibility training to your whole organization.

Monitor and maintain accessibility compliance

Once the website has been remediated, the organization should implement ongoing monitoring and maintenance processes to ensure continued compliance with accessibility standards. This may include regular accessibility audits, user testing, and staying updated with changes in accessibility laws and standards.

Silktide assesses your website regularly and automatically and alerts you to any new issues it finds.  Your content creators and contributors can use Silktide to check for accessibility issues on pages before they go live.

This greatly reduces the risk of further OCR letters and helps you maintain a much more accessible website.

We find that the key to improving accessibility across your organization lies in getting buy-in from everybody, by inspiring them to improve.

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