Good day, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the "Electronic Information and Digital Access Update on Compliance and Enforcement" call. At this time, operatives are in the listen only mode. Later, we''ll conduct a Question & Answer session and instructions will follow at that time. If anyone should require assistance during the conference, please press star then zero on your touch-tone telephone to reach an operator. As a reminder, this conference call is being recorded. I''d now like to turn the call over to Peter Berg. Sir, you may begin.
Thank you very much Stephanie. I''d like to welcome all of you. My name is Peter Berg. I am the project coordinator of technical assistance with the Great Lakes ADA Center. Today is the May edition of the ADA audio conference series. The audio conference series is a project of the ADA National Network which is funded by the U.S. Department of Education National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR). You can always reach your regional ADA Center by visiting www.adata.org or by calling 800 - 949 - 4232. I''m just going to go over some initial slides before we turn it over to our presenters for today. On slide 2 for the access to the audio for today''s session. The audio is being provided through the Webinar platform or via the telephone for those that signed up for that service. The audio broadcast can be controlled through the audio video panel in the webinar room and the volume can be adjusted sliding the slider to the right to increase or left to decrease the volume. If you''re having any sound volume issues with your computer connection to the webinar room, you can access the audio setup wizard in the audio visual panel and run the audio setup wizard to address any sound issues that you may be encountering. On our next slide, for mobile users, Blackboard Collaborate has an app that is available through the apple store, google play, or amazon that can be used to access today''s session. Just as a note, there is some limited accessibility with the app. The captioning is not carried through the app, and there are some limitations for individuals who use screen readers or Voiceover with the app. The captioning for today''s session, for those that require captioning to access, that is available in the Webinar room, and the caption screen can be accessed by choosing the icon in the audio-video panel. The captioning panel can be adjusted. It can be enlarged, the font can be increased, and you''re also able to save a transcript of today''s session within the captioning icon. For the submission of questions, when we get to that point in our presentation, our operator will come back and give instructions for those of you on the telephone on how you can ask questions. For users in the webinar room you can submit questions in the chat area, click on the chat area or keystroke control-M will put focus in the chat area where you can submit your questions. You will not see your question submitted, but it will be viewable by the moderators. For those connected via the mobile app, you can submit your questions in the chat area as well. You are able to customize your view, within the webinar room; the Whiteboard where the PowerPoint presentation is displayed can be resized. Select the drop-down menu that is above and to the left of the Whiteboard and you can adjust the appearance of the Whiteboard. Next slide, additionally, you can make adjustments to all of the panels, the chat panel, participant panel, within the audio-video panel within the webinar room and you can detach the panels, you can make them bigger, and you can make them smaller. Again, in the Webinar platform, you can set the preferences as to audio notifications and visual notifications that you receive. For instance, by default, when you''re in the Webinar room, anytime anyone enters the Webinar room, you hear a little audible notification and you can usually see a visual notification. Those preferences can be turned off so that you''re not distracted within the Webinar room. You can go to the edit menu in the drop-down menu and go to preferences. Once in the preferences, scroll down to general and select audio, and you can cycle through the various audible notification options, turn off the ones that you don''t want and select "apply" and then select video notifications and do the same, turning off the visual notifications that you don''t want to see and select "apply". The same goes for screen reader users in the general webinar room. For Screen Reader users who are following the PowerPoint presentation, you can go to the activity window where you can view an accessible version of the presentation, control slash opens up your activity window and you can also set preferences within the activity window for the visual notifications. Finally, if you require any technical assistance during today''s session, you can click on Great Lakes in the participant list and submit your inquiry to us or you can -- for screen reader users, you can either use the Tab key or use the F6 to cycle around until you get to the participant list and right click on the Great Lakes and it will open up an area where you can submit a chat message. Also, any difficulties or questions can be sent to email@example.com or finally you can give us a call at 877- 232-1990. Finally, I would like to introduce our speakers. Both of our speakers'' bios are available on the ADA audio website, www.ada-audio.org and select the ADA audio conference program and select speakers, you can view their full bios. But with us today are William Lynch and Eugenia Esch, they are both trial attorneys with the U.S. Department of Justice within the Civil Rights division Disability Rights section. So at this point, I would like to turn it over to William for our presentation. William?
Hi, thanks a lot, Peter. I really appreciate everyone joining us today. As Peter said, my name is William Lynch. Feel free to call me Billy or Bill. Either is fine, and I will let my colleague introduce herself.
I''m Eugenia Esch, and I echo Billy''s introduction, and thank you very much, and we are ready to get going here.
So, if you wouldn''t mind moving along to slide 11, we''ll just briefly talk about our agenda during the Webinar today. What we''d like to do is just have a brief overview of the Americans with Disabilities Act, some of its regulatory provisions and applications to services that are migrated to digital technologies. After that we''d like to talk about some Department of Justice activities, which will include public enforcement actions, some technical assistance materials, and some regulatory actions. After that, we''d like to talk about "for your information" some other public accessible tech matters. Just a few selected issues. There''s quite a few others that are out there, but just highlight a couple for you. Then at the end, we''d like to do a case study of a consent decree that Eugenia and I co-negotiated with the national Federation of the Blind to individuals who are blind and two subsidiaries of H & R Block involving the accessibility of Block''s website, its mobile applications, and its tax preparation product. So what do we mean by digital migration? There''s no magic to this, this is just some observations of what occurs when we move from paper to digital or computer or electronic materials. The digital migration service may include some inherent features that we all are aware of but are important contextually in this area. First, convenience, there''s flexibility in being able to transact business. Remoteness, you can do it on an airplane. You can do it when you''re on vacation. Rapidity, it happens almost instantaneously. Independence. You may not have to ask somebody else for assistance in doing something. One might be able to transact business independently. Availability, certain web technologies, of course, are available 24/7, or almost 24/7, depending on maybe support. Efficiency, security, in some circumstances, it may be more secure to take people out of the equation. Ease of recordkeeping. When engaging in a digital transaction, it''s easier to keep an electronic copy of certain things. There''s a potential to substantially benefit all individuals, including individuals with disabilities. But when we have digital technologies that are not accessible, there could be significant marginalization of opportunities and participation for people with disabilities. Next slide, please.
And I''m going to talk about Title I, the employment provision of the Americans with Disabilities Act and specifically I''m starting with slide number 13, and I will cover slide 14 as well, 15, and then as well as slide 20. The Title I of the ADA covers all things in employment, including the application process, all terms and conditions for employees, training, advancement, compensation, and not -- sometimes forgotten, Title I also covers the first step, which is advertising for a job, and more and more employers are doing this online, recruiting online as well. Title I requires employers to provide reasonable accommodation to an applicant or an employee who has an actual disability, has a perceived disability, or has a record of a disability. So that, for instance, we are looking at a case where the application form is just available online. Now, if you are an applicant for a law enforcement position, that''s not a big problem, because, one of the essential functions of being a police officer is to have vision, but if you are applying for some other job where vision is not directly connected to an essential function, then what do you do? So, employers have to be very careful that anything that is online is also - they have made provisions to provide reasonable accommodation for someone with a disability. The other aspect of the application process is tests. And there again, a lot of employers are using online tests or computerized testing, and so they tend to forget that they have to provide reasonable accommodation for someone who needs captioning or needs to use a screen reader. And then, finally, in the employment context, when you''re an employer, a lot of state and local governments, which is the entities that the Department of Justice has jurisdiction -- EEOC has jurisdiction over private employers, but in the state and local government arena, a lot of them are using off-the-shelf software, or a lot of municipalities, for instance, have websites where, for instance, for public assistance -- the application for public assistance is on the website. So employees are then required to be cognizant and familiar with different software and if you have a disability, an employee -- what usually happens is the tech department -- the IT department of the big public employer, for instance, has no clue, we found, as to how to make retrofit something that the employer has spent a lot of money buying and so they end up being in a fix because we have employees who file charges alleging that the employer is not providing reasonable accommodations. So you have to be careful there. Now, one very important issue is medical inquiries. Title I bars any medical inquiry before a conditional offer is made. Therefore -- but an employer is allowed, when the employer is soliciting applicants, to ask that an applicant who needs reasonable accommodation to notify the employer, that is the only instance where any clue about a person''s -- an applicant''s disability is permissible. Otherwise, it is not permissible. Now, Title I applies to state and local governments, private employers, employment agencies, labor unions, as well as contractors. If an employer contracts training to another entity, that contractor has Title I responsibility. And one last thing, for all inquiries, everything you want to know and more about employment, I suggest you go to the equal employment Opportunity Commission website, EEOC.gov. It has guidances, FAQs, and a lot of information that you can access for free.
I''d like to move to discuss Title II and III, starting with slide 16. Just briefly, it''s worth reviewing the statutory language, the general prohibitions of each. Title II provides that subject to the provisions of the sub chapter, no qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of such disability, be precluded from participation in, or be denied the benefits of services, programs, or activities of a public entity or be subjected to discrimination by any such entity. Under Title II, the department has long taken the position, and courts are fairly uniform on this, if not fully uniform, that the public entity can include any state or local government and any department, agency, or other instrumentality of a state or local government. Title II covers the breadth of state and local government services, programs and activities. And when it comes to digital or E technologies, issues that could potentially come up under a Title II analysis could include anything available through the public entities website, various electronic information used in the education context, whether at the elementary, secondary, undergraduate, or beyond levels. Benefit programs, where let''s say you have to apply for something online or check the status of an application. Let''s say I need to process my property tax payment and the website requires CAPTCHA to be able to create an account and log in. Registering a business, obtaining a recycling bin, paying a parking ticket, finding emergency shelter, engaging the court system, and the list goes on. Virtually everything that you could think of that a public entity does would be covered, and increasingly, we know that the services are being migrated towards digital technologies, Title III.
I''m sorry, William, if you could just announce the slide that you are on for the folks who printed out the handout so that they could follow along with you.
I would be happy to. My apologies for that, I''m on slide 18. And this is the general prohibition of discrimination for Title III. No individual shall be discriminated against on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation by any person who owns, leases, or leases to or operates a place of public accommodation.
Alright, now, for slide 19 which, of course duplicates what is in the Statute and in the Regs., these are all examples of public accommodations, and we have been forceful in our efforts to make them accessible to visitors and consumers of -- with disabilities. Now, I think that I''ve covered most of what is on slide 20, which is the Title I regulatory provision in what employment practices are covered, and if you have any questions and you need more, there is the EEOC.gov, and if you have clients that you wish to inform, note that if it is an individual who wishes to file a charge of discrimination, they have to do it through the EEOC. All individual claims have to go through the EEOC, and the EEOC does its investigation, but finally, if it finds cause and the entity is a state or local government, then it is referred to the department for further action. And that is how we get involved in employment matters there, if it''s based on an individual, it will be sent to us through the EEOC. However, the attorney general does have independent authority to bring what is known as a patent or practice case, and that is the way that the Department of Justice enforces Title I in terms of reining in discriminatory practices and policies. For instance, if we had a recent case that involved -- it''s not -- a recent case that involved a policy of not extending leave beyond a certain period of time, and the Title I requires employers to provide unpaid leave. So I''m just raising that to illustrate that the attorney general does have independent authority to bring the practice. And we are looking at various state and local governments and their websites because the department has always regarded its website being covered by Title III, Title I -- I mean, by the ADA, and more and more employers are now using websites to provide services that were -- at least local governments are providing services that you were formerly provided in other ways, and their employees are having to deal with technology that is new to them, so a note of caution there.
I''d like to, on slide 21, briefly walk through some of the relevant regulatory provisions. This is not exhaustive, but we''ll frame our discussion going forward. Titles II and III, have the regulations are located at 28 CFR parts 35 and 36 for Titles II and III, respectively, and the prohibitions extend to discrimination that is direct or that is through contractual licensing, or other arrangements. Which could be important in some circumstances where certain technologies are used, created by someone else or perhaps there''s a contract to use or a license. The types of discrimination that may be prohibited under the circumstances would be, you know, the denial of participation or benefit from a (inaudible) service. An unequal opportunity to participate or benefit; separate or different but unnecessary opportunity to participate or benefit; instances where aids, benefits, or services are ineffective where the circumstances involved aiding or perpetuating discrimination otherwise limiting rights, privileges, advantages, or opportunities at work, utilizing standards or criteria that result in discrimination. In addition, there are specific regulatory provisions. Particularly applicable to the digital technology and because its communication, is the -- are the effective communication provisions. So discrimination under Titles II and III can be failing to take appropriate steps to ensure effective communication through the provision of appropriate auxiliary aids and services, unless a fundamental alteration or undue burden results, and failing to make reasonable modification to policies, practices, and procedures unless there is a fundamental alteration. And turning to the next slide, Eugenia is going to talk about the auxiliary aids and services that may be applicable.
The revised 2010 standards and regulations include numerous mentions of accessible electronic and informational technology, including examples of auxiliary aids and services to deliver that information. For instance, if you are an individual who are Deaf or hard of hearing, there is all sorts of technological auxiliary aids and services that can be used. For individuals who are blind or have low vision, you have screen reader software, magnification software, optical reading, all sorts of other technology, and we have found that in our enforcement of -- enforcement efforts that a lot of -- especially private entities are in the fore and very familiar and have taken the steps to acquire these more advanced but we end up hitting -- when it comes to smaller entities, then there is the undue burden defense because some of these are very expensive. For instance, there is the device that is a combination of GPS as well as an audio describer, and one of the entities that we were investigating cited a charge of $25,000 for each of those devices. So those have to be -- cost has to be a factor in some of our investigations. So the regulations also allow effective methods, not only one particular preferable method -- any effective method of making the information available to individuals. And that is -- I''m sorry; I should have said that is slide 22.
So moving to slide 23, why don''t we start to drill down, now that we''ve covered some material that a lot of folks on the Webinar are probably pretty familiar with. What are some of the examples of accessibility barriers that we might be talking about that deny opportunities or participation or cause unequal opportunity or participation or deny effective communication or perhaps exclude individuals with various disabilities from fully participating? What we''re talking about, and this is a non-exhaustive list; lack of text labels for forms, images, and buttons that would be critical for screen reader navigation, keyboard accessibility for screen reader and voice dictation software. So for example, if you have program that is flash-based and it does not have the appropriate code to permit keyboard navigation and that would require mouse only use, then a number of individuals with disabilities would be precluded from being able to use that piece of software; Lack of captions and audio descriptions of multimedia; Lack of adequate contrast; Timing or logging out. A lot of websites will time out or log somebody out because it''s taking quite a while to accomplish whatever task, and if that''s too quick, then that could preclude an individual with a - who is blind or an individual who has a physical disability or perhaps a cognitive disability from the opportunity to proceed. Notification of errors, so if I''m filling out my credit card information and I entered an incorrect number or misspelled my name and the transaction doesn''t go through, if the error notifications are not matched up with the form fields, then it''s difficult to know, if not impossible in some circumstances, where the barriers are at -- where the errors are at. Excuse me, the ability to change layout without losing content. If the content is inherent in the layout, then it can be difficult, if not impossible, for an individual who is blind and cannot see the content to be able to understand how to use the content. Use of structure for navigation, this comes up a lot in longer web pages or perhaps eBooks or digital files where there''s a number of headings and subheadings. If it''s a longer document, then being able to go to a section can be critical in being able to use it. So each of these is an example of a barrier that is identified, in particular, by the web content accessibility guidelines, 2.0, most of you are probably familiar with them. Some may not be. The World Wide Web Consortium, which is a recognized international standards body for web-based and digital technologies, has created these standards with input from numerous entities, public and private, to develop a uniform set of guidelines on how to address certain barriers and the standards are available on the W3C''s website and they''ve become recognized as an international standard. Moving on to slide 24, we''d like to talk about some of the selected Department of Justice enforcement actions. Just briefly going to talk about these, we have included hyperlinks on the presentation. They''re also available on our website, ada.gov. If you''re looking for particular materials, feel free to contact either of us and we can also point you towards items that might be available. The first that we''d like to talk about is our involvement with H&R Block''s website and mobile applications. We''re going to talk a little bit in greater detail at the end about it, but essentially, we intervened in a case that the National Federation of the Blind and two individual plaintiffs who were blind brought against H&R Block''s two subsidiaries of Block involving the website and mobile apps which in March result as a consent decree. Another notable activity of the department is a statement of interest -- it''s similar to an amicus brief, if you''re not familiar with what those are, that we filed in a case of New versus Lucky Brand, I believe it was in the southern district of Florida, and in that case, we discussed the application of effective communication obligations to touch screen point of sale devices used to individually transact debit and credit purchases in stores. In -- I believe it was in 2010 and 11, we filed a couple of statements of interest in a case brought by the National Association of the Deaf versus Netflix. One involved the closed captioning of Netflix''s watch instantly internet stream content and coverage of Netflix under Title III of the ADA. And the second involved the interplay between the 21st century communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 or the CVAA and the ADA.
Alright, now, I''m going to talk now about other enforcement actions that are on slide 25 and slide 26. Last December we reached a settlement agreement with the Newseum, and in that settlement agreement requires the Newseum to require appropriate auxiliary aids and services in all public programs, media, and exhibits, and its website. The Newseum sets itself out as a museum of news and history in Washington DC, and it is -- most of its exhibits and programs are technologically sophisticated, and they were not -- they were providing captioning and listening devices for patrons who were Deaf or hard of hearing but doing almost nothing for visitors who are blind or have low vision, and under the agreement, the Newseum must take steps to make sure that all of its programs, exhibits, and facilities are accessible. For instance, one of the agreements required that specifically that the operating controls of all the interactive programs are not only accessible to visitors who are blind but also to visitors who use wheelchairs, for example. And the museum is required to provide some sort of audio description and tactile experiences of its exhibits, and most importantly, it''s all the information and the visual and audio content that it posts on its website, they are required to make it conform to WCAG 2.0 level AA. And the department has always taken the position that for state and local government websites and, of course, websites of private entities, that are public accommodation, should be accessible to individuals with disabilities, and as part of this effort, the department has reached settlement agreements with numerous state and local governments as recipients of financial assistance and requiring them to make their websites accessible and we, incidentally, also provide technical assistance, so if you are aware of any entities who need that type of assistance, we have an 800 number on our website that they can use to contact us. Three years ago, we received a complaint from the National Federation of the Blind and the American Council of the Blind alleging that colleges and universities were violating the obligations under the ADA by deploying Amazon Kindles, electronic book readers, to students in the classrooms setting and these Kindles did not have the text to speech capacity for the manual navigational controls. And we investigated the complaints and we reached agreements with five universities, Case Western Reserve, Reed College and Pace University, Arizona State University, Princeton University, and the University of Virginia Darden. The settlement provided to the Universities said not to purchase, acquire or in any way incorporate into the curriculum, Amazon Kindle DX, or any other dedicated book reader unless it is accessible or they ensure that the student who is blind or has low vision can acquire the same information and engage in the same interaction and enjoy the same services as the other students. We also reached an agreement in 2012 with the Sacramento Public Library Authority, and the library agreed under our settlement agreement not -- they were using the Barnes & Noble Nook electronic reader and using that as part of their lending services. Under the agreement, the library agreed not to acquire any additional Nook readers and that they would require at least 18 E-Readers that are accessible to persons with disabilities. And in almost all our agreements, there is a training component that the entity is required to train existing and all new personnel who are responsible for the type of services.
Moving on to slide 27, in 2013, I believe, we entered into a settlement agreement with Louisiana Tech University involving the use of inaccessible web-based learning management system. It was called MyOMLab, The system allowed for uploading and downloading course assignments and taking exams, and a student with a visual disability encountered barriers. Under that agreement, there is a hallmark of remedies under the ADA, which include policy modifications, training, procurement procedures, and ensuring that web-based content deployed at the university met the WCAG 2.0 AA conformance standard. And also, within the past few years, we entered into an agreement with Atlanta''s John Marshall Law School requiring an application process that is usable by people who are blind and the agreement required that the school cease using the LSAT credentialing assembly service until it became accessible. The department, in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights -- this is slide 28, issued some technical assistance in 2010, regarding the use of technologies in the classroom, in particular prompted by the use of e-readers. And the full text of that document, of course, is available, either on our website or through the link, and I''ll provide it in the PowerPoint.
All right. We are on slide 29, and in 2010, the department issued an advanced Notice of Proposed Rule Making in the following areas, accessibility of web information and services, movie captioning and audio description, accessibility of the Next Generation 911 and equipment and furniture, and one purpose to clarify the obligations of covered entities to make their website accessible and what specific requirements should be adopted to provide further guidance and what is required under the ADA. One thing we should explain is Billy and I are on the enforcement team or enforcement section of our office. There is the "Reg" team, the team that does all the regulatory functions of our -- of the department under the ADA, and they are busily working on it, but they haven''t gotten NPRM out, and the only thing that we can suggest is wait and see, and they should be coming out soon, but I cannot, I''m sorry, let you know exactly when.
Moving to slide 30, we''d like to move towards just briefly discussing some other accessible tech matters that you may or may not be aware of. There was a recent settlement agreement between the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights and the University of Montana, and in that agreement, the university agreed to establish or amend certain policies and procedures to ensure all electronic and information technology procured or deployed by the university, including e-textbooks, course materials, online course registration, learning management systems, classroom technology, such as smart podiums and clickers, library services, office equipment, et cetera, can be used by students who are blind or have other disabilities. The disability rights advocates -- and my mistake, I believe this was between certain individuals and Berkeley University. It says disability rights advocates but I think that was the law firm on behalf of those individuals, reached an agreement with Berkeley requiring certain policies to ensure information access for students and that agreement is available through the hyperlink or I''m sure through Disability Rights Advocates in California. There was a recent agreement between the National Federation of the Blind of Massachusetts and Square, which is a mobile payment application that you might be aware of, used to process transactions. A lot of the food trucks will use it, some retailers are starting to use the service. And the agreement requires accessibility of that application. There''s a case pending in the Southern District of California that was filed in February of 2013. I don''t know if it''s been certified or if it is still a putative class action, but it''s a Title I case involving the use of software allegedly inaccessible for management positions and whether that interferes with the advancement of individuals who are blind. Lainey Feingold and Linda Dardarian-- have a couple of agreements, well actually a number of agreements -- a couple are identified here. One is with CVS regarding talking precipitation labels and the second is the accessibility of Safeway''s website for ordering groceries and deliveries.
Now we turn over to the case study and consent decree with two subsidiaries for H&R Block, Incorporated. Last year, the beginning of last year, we were contacted by the National Federation of the Blind and invited to join them in their lawsuit against HRB Digital LLC and HRB Tax Group, and the complaint filed by the National Federation of the Blind alleged violations of Title III of the ADA as well as the Massachusetts Equal Rights Act. We reviewed the complaint and then we contacted H&R Block and attempted to resolve the issues, but our efforts to come to a negotiated settlement were not successful. So on November 25, 2013, we intervened in the lawsuit. Our complaint was, likely broader in that it covered all disabilities, not just individuals who are blind or who have low vision, and we also sought injunctive relief and damages for the two named plaintiffs, Mika Pyyhkala and Lindsay Yazzolino and of course, the civil penalty, which is routine in most of our agreements against private entities. And on December 11 -- then we proceeded to try to resolve it again and we were not successful, and finally, we filed -- in March, on March 25, 2014, the court entered a consent decree that''s far-reaching and very comprehensive.
We are on 33 -- I''m sorry, I thought it was Billy''s turn.
No problem. I''m happy to do it if you''d like
The consent decree covers the website and the online tax preparation product and requires both to conform to WCAG 2.0 AA by January 1, 2015. The mobile apps we have them conforming by January 1, 2016, a year later. And then there are various steps that are detailed in the consent decree to bring both the website, the tax preparation products, and the apps into conformance. There is also an injunctive portion as well. And it prohibits h&rblock.com from denying individuals with disabilities the opportunity to participate in and benefit from the goods and services, facilities, privileges, advantages and accommodations provided through its website as well as its mobile applications prohibits unequal opportunity to participate on the goods, services, privileges, advantages, and accommodations. They have to take -- H&R Block has to take the necessary steps to ensure individuals with disabilities are not excluded, denied service, segregated, or otherwise treated differently because of the absence of auxiliary aids and services. And it prohibits the use of standards of criteria, methods of administration that will have the fact of discriminating on the basis of disability, and we''ll go into more detail into how that all translates into practice.
In slide 35, we start to dig into some of the details of -- you know, when you have a significant website, significant mobile apps, how -- with many people involved, how do you ensure that they conform, and how do you make that happen? How do you keep them conforming? And, you know, a lot of these, for folks who practice in this area, are going to sound familiar, because they''re the same types of remedies that are tried and true and tested on addressing a number of issues under the ADA. The first would, of course, be a policy statement. So by June 1, 2014, Block, and when I say Block, I mean the two subsidiaries of the H&R Block Incorporated who have responsibility for these -- for the website and the mobile app and the tax preparation product, which is essential the tax filing utility that is part of the website, must establish a policy, distribute it, initially on new hire and annually to web content personnel, call center personnel, and contractors responsible for web content. So there is an initial notification and then a reminder at regular intervals of the importance of web accessibility. And the various steps that the organization takes to get there and to stay there. Block is required to publish a statement of commitment to accessibility and the ability to submit -- there must be an accessible way to submit questions and comments about that. By June 15, 2014, Block must retain and identify -- I should just say identify web accessibility coordinator. That individual must be knowledgeable about the terms of the decree, including the legal requirements that Eugenia discussed WCAG 2.0 and web accessibility generally. The web accessibility coordinator is responsible for overseeing, managing, and coordinating implementation of the decree. The person is responsible for reporting and documenting quarterly, at minimum, to the enterprise chief information officer that all new releases have been made accessible pre-production, that any post-production accessibility bugs have been remediated, and whether the requirements of the decree have been met, and if not, which ones? And why, so there is a vertical process of information sharing about what''s going on in the process. By July 15, 2014, Block will establish a web accessibility committee which is responsible for monitoring and maintaining conformance. Similarly, by July 15, 2014, there''s a requirement to provide a notice, prominently and directly linked from hrblock.com home page soliciting feedback from visitors on how the website, mobile apps, and online tax preparation product can be improved. It must include several methods to provide feedback, including an accessible form to submit the feedback or an e-mail address, and a toll free number with TTY. We find that some folks still use TTY, to contact knowledgeable representatives about the website accessibility policy. By December 1, 2014, Block is required to train call service personnel to auto escalate access barriers to supervisors who are knowledgeable about addressing the barriers and no less than 5% of such individuals are on staff at any given time. And by December 1, 2015, for mobile apps, the same will be true. By August 15, 2014, Block will provide web accessibility training. This also includes when the following folks are hired into certain jobs, for all employees who write or develop programs or code for or publish content to the website, mobile apps, and online tax preparation product on how to conform to WCAG 2.0 AA. The employees and the web accessibility coordinator are subject to performance reviews that evaluate the degree and effectiveness of incorporating accessibility considerations. This also applies to the coordinator, the call service operations personnel and the web content personnel. Starting October 1, 2014, Block will select a tool that is acceptable to the private plaintiffs and U.S. to evaluate conformance of the website with WCAG 2.0 AA. Beginning December 1 of this year and every three months for five years will conduct automated tests of the website. Starting June 1, 2015 and each year thereafter and once per month will test the online tax preparation product, the tax preparation product is a seasonal feature, obviously following the tax year. So there''s a different timeline for that. And October 1, 2014, if one exists at the time, Block will select a mobile app automated testing tool. Starting October 1, 2014, and annually thereafter, Block will -- whenever Block is making a proposed substantial change, which is defined under the decree, individuals with different disabilities are required to test the change, so individuals who are blind, low-vision individuals, individuals who are Deaf, individuals with mobility disabilities, et cetera. Starting by December 1, 2014, Block will modify its existing policies to include accessibility bugs to ensure accessibility bugs are remedied with the same priority level equivalent with any other loss of function. A lot, if not all, tech companies have bug-fix priority policies where if a bug that, let''s say it prevents you from completing a transaction, that would be a pretty serious bug for a company. That would be elevated on the priority list, and the goal here is to do the same with accessibility barriers, ideally, at that point, the policies will be changed, and ideally afterwards, that will never come into play, but for a lot of folks working on a website or a mobile app at any given time, perhaps changes to one part of the code could impact another part. There''s also a requirement under the decree for Block to retain a web accessibility consultant who will conduct evaluations. By July 15, 2014, Block will retain the consultant, who has to be approved by all parties. By September 15, 2014, and annually, the consultant provides written evaluation on whether website, mobile apps, and online tax preparation product are in conformance. Whether there are recurring or significant deviations, and will make recommendations that document will be provided to all parties and Block will incorporate recommendations. In addition, under the decree, Block provided to each individual private plaintiff, $22,500 for the barriers experienced and a $55,000 civil penalty. The decree also requires regular reporting on the progress of coming into conformance and ultimately compliance over the five-year period. So as you can see, the Block decree is comprehensive in the various pieces, over time the many folks that are in the consulting arena or perhaps web accessibility arena will have identified methods of how to bring websites and other technologies into compliance or conformance or to just make them accessible and, not surprisingly, a lot of those methods or techniques are similar to how you would deal with an architectural barrier or effective communication issue in a hospital or service animal complaint, et cetera. So that''s the end of our portion of the presentation, and we appreciate your tuning in and joining us today, and we''re happy to at least try to answer any questions that you might have.
All right, great. Thank you, William and Eugenia. For the folks in the Webinar room, again, you can submit questions in the chat area. You can click on the chat area, submit your question, or control-M for screen reader users to put focus into the chat area. Even though you do not see your question, once you submitted it, it is viewable by the moderators, and at this time, I want to ask Destiny to come on and give instructions for those connecting by telephone how to give questions, please. Destiny?
Ladies and gentlemen on the phone line if you have a question, please press the star, then the number one key on your touch-tone telephone.
Alright. While we''re waiting for questions here, we had a question submitted here that electronically, that William, I think you were talking about the Netflix. Could you explain the application of the ADA to Netflix? And the questioner wants to know, versus the obligations of a video rental, you know, where people go in and still rent actual videotapes and in that instance where the rental business wouldn''t have obligation to caption the video tapes that they rent.
Sure. I''m not sure there''s much else that I can say beyond what is included in the statement of interest on that particular topic. You know, I mean -- I guess there is -- it''s hard to answer that question without knowing all of the facts, and, you know, obviously, the obligations always depend on the individual circumstances. There are -- so, you know, I mean, if there are specific questions related to that, I can try to drill down a little bit, but I''m not sure that I would have anything to offer beyond what''s in the statement of interest on that particular issue.
Okay, fine. Destiny, are there any questions on the telephone at this time?
We have a question from Sheila Laurie. Your line is open.
This is Sheila Laurie in Charlotte with the participant group. We have two questions actually. The first one is that we live stream board meetings. Do we need to provide a full transcript for archival purposes or is an agenda and minutes sufficient?
What sort of entity? Are you a public entity?
Public, Public school system.
So the obligation is to take -- well, certainly, there''s coverage of a public school system, and I guess -- I can''t give you legal advice, but there are a number of provisions that would come into play in a circumstance where a public school system is providing information publicly in open meeting. You know, if -- if you''re providing information in an open setting like that, and there''s an obligation to ensure that you''re providing appropriate auxiliary aids and services to ensure effective communication. As Eugenia discussed, there are many different types of auxiliary aids under the services that depends on the circumstances. Are you talking about providing the presentation over the web or having folks join you in person?
I''m going to let the originator of the question speak to that.
We recently had some issues with our board of education that have generated widespread public interest, and instead of there being six people wanting to attend the meeting in person, we have hundreds of people, and lacking a larger venue, we''ve been live streaming those meetings in Google Hangouts so that the public could watch the proceedings from home, and then, at the conclusion of that, we just post the archive of the meeting and video for the public to access.
Well, to the obligation is to provide appropriate auxiliary services to ensure effective communication. There would have to be individuals with disabilities who would be qualified to participate in or benefit from the presentation. If a public entity is using technology that would not permit that to occur, then there could be, you know, problems that would develop. One practical way of addressing that issue is to discuss with IT staff the capacity of the platform to determine whether the platform itself is accessible for individuals. You know, as a general matter, I can''t -- can''t give you legal advice about your particular circumstances, but I can say that, you know, attorneys that work in this area probably would have some heartburn with notes or minutes and not, you know, a transcript of materials, because those are going to be, depending on the meeting itself, are going to include all of the information. You know, a lot of it depends on who you''re providing the information to. If it''s a group of five people and nobody has a disability, then -- I mean, you could provide it any way that you want. But if it''s open to everyone and there are potentially individuals who had disabilities that are going to be participate, that becomes a different calculations.
Have you had any requests?
Are you aware of individuals, parents or students with disabilities who might participate or tune in for that?
I guess the biggest concern would be those with hearing disabilities because the visual aspect of the meeting would be fairly insignificant. The audio would contain all the information. So a visually impaired person would get all the information, but there''s no written, you know, word-by-word transcript of the meetings. And there''s got to be somebody out there -- you know, we have 40 some thousand students, then all the parents and the rest of the community, so just statistically speaking, there''s going to be somebody with a hearing disability that may want access to that.
I would recommend discussing with your general counsel, attorneys internally about, you know, what steps you all should take.
We will get back to you folks if we have time for your second question. Destiny if you could put them back in the queue. We''ll go to a question that was submitted in the chat area, and the question is, regarding the e-readers and the enforcement actions that the Justice Department took with regard to the colleges and universities, and the questioner wants to know why the action was taken against the entities and not against the manufacturers of the device, i.e., the Kindle. Or also, I guess, the library, why the action was taken against -- I believe it was Sacramento and not the manufacturer of the inaccessible devices themselves.
So the question is one of jurisdiction. While the circumstances always dictate the level of coverage of a particular entity, a manufacturer of a product isn''t necessarily considered -- or covered, excuse me, but, you know, just -- I wouldn''t necessarily read into, you know, our involvement with one particular entity as suggesting that another entity isn''t necessarily covered in one way or another.
Also, the complaints were brought against the university, not against Amazon.
Okay. Thank you. Destiny, do we have another question on the telephone at this time?
I''m not showing any further questions on this phone line at this time.
Alright. Let''s go back to questions that we have -- questions that were submitted electronically, and could you talk about -- this questioner wants to know about the revised Justice Department regulations applying to the reservations of places of lodging and the question, from an enforcement side, want to know whether or not when the Justice Department does a compliance review of a hotel, whether review of online reservation systems will be a part of future compliance reviews.
Well, we can only speak to -- we can''t speak to what the department might do in the future. You know, I mean, I guess the question is, if an entity provides communications online and that entity has obligations to ensure effective communication and provide appropriate auxiliary aid services, is there an ADA claim, and I guess the answer is, possibly. So, you know, I''m not even -- I guess we don''t even know the answer to be able to answer the question, of what might occur in the future. But certainly taking it back to the statutory and regulatory provisions, then, there could be certain obligations. Whether those would change based on changes in the regulations in the future, that''s -- I wish I had the crystal ball to be able to determine that, but unfortunately, Eugenia and I don''t at our low level.
Certainly. Another question submitted electronically. Could you talk about -- what would be the ADA application to the transaction systems that are popping up in taxi cabs where the customer completes the transaction from the back seat with, you know, swipes their own debit and credit card and enters the tip amount on the device?
I don''t know, actually. That''s a good question. I think it''s -- you know, what I would say is that --
Is it the individual taxi driver that is required to purchase the device or is it the company? Those are issues that would have to be looked at.
Let''s say in the instance that they''re working for one of the large taxi cab services, and as part of being -- using their dispatch services, they have to use this particular type of device.
Are you talking about from an employee or the customer''s point of view?
From the rider''s point of view.
And the situation is -- I''m sorry, I think we need some more specific facts in this particular instance, but --
I guess the question is -- let''s use an example of a blind passenger that has this payment device in the back seat where all the other riders can independently swipe their debit card or credit card and make the payment without any assistance from the taxi cab driver. Would there be an application of the ADA to that type of transaction device?
It is unclear where the jurisdiction lies, and I think what we would probably have to do is confer with our colleagues who are more familiar with the transportation aspect of the issue.
Assuming -- there''s two questions, really, that are being asked. One is coverage, and the second is, what are the obligations once coverage is established? Taking the coverage issue out of it, the Lucky Brand statement of interest discusses point of sale of transaction machines from a Title III perspective, so -- but as Eugenia said, I am stumped by the question and I would definitely have to talk with some of the more knowledgeable folks on that arena too.
But the Lucky Brand statement of interest would probably be helpful.
Alright. Destiny, do we have a question on the telephone at this time?
We have a follow-up question from Sheila Laurie. Your line is open.
All right, Go ahead. Do you still have a second question?
There''s a second question also related to our board of education meetings. We provide all the documentation that is going to be discussed at the meeting like contracts and things like that with contractors and things like that, but a lot of times those items are scanned versions of originals. And a scanned version, you know, things that are handwritten may not be readily, you know, readable by a screen reader. What reasonable accommodations would we have to make? Would we have to do transcriptions of those or maybe just have, claim or say it''s available upon request?
So, this is again, a pretty -- we''re not in a position to be able to give legal advice. What I -- you know, I guess there''s a couple of questions that would have to be explored in a circumstance like that. Who is the information going to? Is it being provided publicly for anyone to obtain? That''s a different question than if it''s going, you know, attached to an e-mail to six people on a particular committee.
It would basically be under the open meetings provisions that it''s for anybody -- any tax paying citizen in our county.
On top of that -- and you know, your obligations you would probably want to discuss with your counsel. On top of the issue of whether there''s an obligation to do it, the question is, how do you functionally make it happen? And you know, there are automated programs that will address some issues, but requiring touch up and going back through and remediating the information -- you know, I think a lot of organizations find it beneficial to have text -- you know, overlays in documents that makes it searchable and you can quickly find certain information, if it''s an English-based PDF or other document, some kind of JPG and it doesn''t have searchability, then that information may not be included in the database that would appear. So, you know -- it''s hard to specifically say what an obligation would be, and like I said, we have to be careful that we''re not giving legal advice to folks, but I recommend following up with your counsel. You''re more than welcome to follow up with us to the extent that we will provide information, we''re happy to do so.
We have a technical assistance line which you can call with your specific problems. I think we would need a few more facts.
Alright. Thank you.
Thank you for your question.
William and Eugenia, we have another question submitted online, and when an entity such as a park district provides both a web form and a downloadable PDF to register for a park district program, would both need the web form and the downloadable PDF be required to be accessible?
Are they the same form?
Yes. So there would be two different ways that one could register for the park district program.
You know, it''s hard to answer in a vacuum without knowing all the details. Like what are the benefits of being able to do one versus the other, and is it the same level of access.
Same level of convenience, all those issues we discussed in the beginning. So that''s the first question. The second question is, how difficult is it to actually make the -- both forms accessible, and it seems that with existing resources, it could often be accomplished fairly easily. And one way to avoid the issue altogether is just to do it. But whether there''s an obligation, it''s something that would require factual scrutiny that we can''t necessarily answer generally.
Sure, all right. And then we''re almost at the bottom of the hour, one last question here to submit. Talk about -- this is related to a public library that provides public computers and the obligations of the library to provide any type of assistive technology, such as screen readers or screen magnification for individuals with disabilities that wanted to use those computers available to the public.
So is the question whether the library needs to provide those services?
Yeah, I guess it comes down to an effective communication question or access to those computers for persons with disabilities.
The definition of auxiliary aids and services specifically identifies screen readers and screen magnification. If it''s necessary to provide effective communication of, you know, information, which is exactly the entire purpose of the library, then it probably, you know -- I guess it depends on certain features of the library and what occurs there. If it''s meant to be a place to be able to apply for jobs and surf the web and do research, then there likely is an obligation, but there''s a certain theme running through our answers, that we can never be certain because the facts always dictates the answers.
And also the effectiveness of making that information -- to deliver that information.
I mean, we know from our work in this area that it is common for libraries, and there''s different types of libraries, of course, too, to provide such services and auxiliary aids and services. I mean the issue -- there''s a challenge with it too, because not every individual with a disability uses the same auxiliary service. So providing various types of auxiliary aids or services might be necessary to ensure effective communication, in any given instance.
All right, excellent. Well, thank you, thank you both for your time presenting today as well as the time that you two put into creating your presentation today. The participants as well as the ADA National Network appreciate your efforts in doing that, and the -- the relationship that the network has with the Justice Department. Our next session will be on June 17th. That session will focus on disclosure under Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act. Registration for that session will be available in the upcoming week, and you can visit the ADA audio website, WWW.ADA-audio.org to get information on when that registration will be available. As a reminder, today''s session has been recorded. The audio archive will be made available within 24 hours again at the www.ADA-audio.org website and the edited written transcript will be available in approximately seven business days from today. I want to again thank William Lynch and Eugenia Esch from the Justice Department and want to thank all of you for joining us today in the May audio conference. We look forward to having you join us in June. For those of you on the telephone, you can simply disconnect. For those of you in the Webinar room, simply close your web browser to disconnect from the Webinar room. Thank you, and have a good day.