2 Effective Communications
2 Effective Communications
2.1 Effective Communications
2.1.1 ADA Standard
One of the first areas the City evaluated was how the City staff communicated with members of the public. The City must ensure that its communications with individuals with disabilities are equally effective as communications with non-disabled people. It must provide auxiliary aids and services, alternate formats, or modifications to policies and practices as necessary to achieve effective communications.
Departmental survey results indicate that nearly all employees are aware that they may need to make reasonable modifications to programs, services, or activities in order to serve people with disabilities. The City’s strong focus on customer service and a high standard of responsiveness continues to guide employees' interactions with the public. This frequently results in employees proactively seeking solutions and assistance with accessibility issues.
However, many of the employees surveyed were not aware of how their programs, services, or activities could be modified to provide effective communication through alternate formats for written materials or offering auxiliary aids.
2.2 Alternate Formats for Written Materials
“Alternate formats” refers to providing material or content in a format that is more usable for a person with a disability. For written or printed materials, this will most often be an electronic version so the user can manipulate the text or images. PDFs and image based files require specific accessibility features that can usually be generated with standard office software. Large print versions of printed materials are another common alternate format, with Braille or audio versions less common and more difficult to produce. Employee awareness about the availability of alternate formats for print and written materials is minimal. No employees reported being asked by customers or partner organizations to provide flyers or event announcements in alternative formats. Many printed or electronically distributed documents produced by the City did not have a notice that they are available in alternate formats upon request.
2.2.1 Actions Taken
- Reviewed current practices and worked with various departments to include a standardized statement for all of their print documents providing that alternate formats will be provided upon request.
- Created a list of resource providers that may be able to assist the City in providing alternate formats. Employees can now ask for providers if requested by placing a work order through the centralized PIC project work order system on the City’s Intraweb.
2.2.2 Areas for Further Evaluation
- Evaluate whether members of the public are sufficiently informed by the existing signage or notifications to know that they can ask for materials in alternate formats.
- Review current guidelines on producing large print and accessible PDFs for ease of use and effectiveness in producing readily accessible communications.
- Improve utilization rate for including accessibility notices or the infographic in printed documents indicating that they are readily available in alternate formats, allowing for wording variations in different types of documents.
- Identify staff or other resources to assist in developing expertise in producing alternate formats.
- Continue to promote the branding standard of an eighth-grade reading level so that public documents are written in plain language or language that is easily understandable by individuals with limited English proficiency, cognitive or intellectual disabilities
2.3 Telecommunications: TDDS and Relay Services
2.3.1 ADA Standard
Telephone communications must be equally accessible to individuals with disabilities. Employees must be able to communicate effectively with Deaf, hard-of-hearing or people with speech disabilities or hearing impairments. The most common methods to achieve effective communications is through use of TDDs or the 711 telecommunications relay service.
The City does not use TDDs, and relies almost entirely on stating, “Use 711 for relay service” on public notices rather than listing a TDD number. The 711 relay service is promoted on the city’s website and mentioned on city written materials. Current observations indicate that many employees may not be familiar with the 711 relay service.
2.3.3 Areas for Further Evaluation
- Gather input from people with hearing or speech disabilities about their needs and preferences when communicating with the City. Is there a decreased need for TDDs now that email, text, 711 relay, and online information are more widely available? Or do community members have a preference for using TDDs?
- Offer regular training to employees about using relay services and TDDs so that employees can handle relay calls or TDD calls the same as any other call.
- Ensure that all listings of City telephone numbers contain a note about using 711 for the relay service.
2.4 Auxiliary Aids
2.4.1 ADA Standard
The City must provide auxiliary aids and services when necessary for effective communication, unless it can demonstrate that it causes an undue burden to do so. Examples of auxiliary aids and services, include assistive listening systems that provide increased audio access for people with a wide range of hearing impairments, providing sign language interpreters, and offering closed captioning for people with hearing disabilities.
Primary consideration should be given to the preference of the individual requesting the accommodation, but the City does not have to provide the exact requested accommodation so long as what is provided is effective. For example, providing a sign language interpreter for a person who is deaf but does not sign would not be effective.
Most City departments are aware that providing auxiliary aids, such as a sign language interpreter, is an accommodation and will seek information on how to do so when requested.
The City of Beaverton’s most-used meeting space is the City council chambers room in The Beaverton Building. This room has a permanently-installed assistive listening system that is available for all meetings. Receivers and headsets are available so anyone can use the system to hear well. The City also has a portable FM assistive listening system that employees can check out to use for meetings at different locations.
2.4.3 Actions Taken
- Ensured that City employees know how to request the services of a sign language interpreter through the centralized PIC work order system on the City’s Intraweb.
2.4.4 Areas for Further Evaluation
- Assess the level of employee training needed to effectively utilize the existing assistive listening systems and help attendees at events to use them.
- Verify that signs identifying Assistive Listening System availability are posted in City facilities.
- Assess what further information or training is needed to make all public contact employees aware of resources for interpreting, real-time captioning, and other communication access services.
- Ensure that existing built-in and portable assistive listening systems are maintained in good working order and available for use anytime the facility is open.
- Gather public input to determine community priorities for additional spaces and locations where assistive listening technology may be desirable.
- Confer with events staff about including prompts about providing communication access in all internal forms and guidelines related to putting on public events or meetings.
2.5 Accessible Meetings and Events
2.5.1 ADA Standard
When the City holds meetings or public events, they must be in an accessible facility and provide effective communication for people with disabilities. The event sponsor should include a notice that accommodations are available, with contact information and a date for requesting accommodations before the event. Materials distributed or shown should be accessible upon request: alternate formats for documents, captioning and/or audio description for videos, and interpretation or real-time captioning for speakers or presentations. Assistive listening systems should be available in all facilities and should be offered whenever amplification is used. Service animals and service animals in training must be permitted at meetings.
Nearly all departments indicated that they sponsor at least some public meetings or events. Current observations indicate that publicity for some public events includes an accommodation notice, but that the language is not always included and not always standardized. Most City events and programs are published in the “Your City” newsletter, which is published quarterly. The “Your City” newsletter includes information regarding how to request alternate formats or other accommodations.
When requested, most departments will provide auxiliary aids or other accommodations, as described above in section 2.4. Employees in many departments indicate a desire for additional guidance and resources on planning accessible meetings.
2.5.3 Actions Taken
- Created a template statement that may be added to all print documents to inform the public on how to request a reasonable accommodation for public meetings.
- Created an infographic that may be used on print documents with limited space to provide information to the public on how they could request a reasonable accommodation from the City before a meeting or event.
- Provided training to employees on where and when to use the statement and infographic.
2.5.4 Areas for Further Evaluation
- Assess employees' knowledge of planning accessible meetings to gauge the level of information and training needed.
- Evaluate through public feedback, whether the “accessibility information” contained in the “Your City” newsletter lets the public know how to request accommodation for any City event.
- Train employees on accessible meetings, including the requirement for 5% wheelchair seating appropriately distributed in the meeting room.
- Confer with City staff about whether to integrate accessibility prompts or checklists into room reservation forms, sound equipment checkout procedures, and other routine documentation related to planning and staging events.
2.6 City Website and Other Online Services
2.6.1 ADA Standard
The City must ensure that its programs, services, and activities are accessible when viewed in their entirety, and this includes content and services posted online either through the City’s website or on sites hosted by third parties. Website material must not pose barriers to those using screen readers or other assistive technology. Where barriers exist, they must be mitigated by providing access to the relevant programs, services, or activities by other means.
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0) are not ADA standards, but it is recommended that state and local governments strive to meet Conformance Level AA.
The City of Beaverton’s current website receives about 14,000 page visits per day. It is one of the major tools that the City uses to communicate with residents and deliver programs and services to the public. The City also uses social media, including Facebook and Twitter.
The City uses a Web Content Management System (WCMS). The WCMS allows the City to continue maintaining the Websites and offers new features without needing a higher level of expertise and training among Web Team members. WCMS also provides improved consistency and scalability, as well as making it easier to perform rebranding of the entire website. The City uses a variety of services to confirm the accessibility and compliance of public-facing portals. The main services are SiteImprove, WebAIM, and Access2Online.
The City’s website includes fillable forms, interactive portals, bill payment systems, registration, and document retrieval systems. Many of these systems are set up through third-party software that may not have been rigorously tested against accessibility standards.
Beaverton's use of social media began in 2014. Social media feeds provide timely updates to the community about their municipal government, including information about important programs, services, and opportunities provided by the City.
Beaverton’s primary social media outlets include Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Both include closed captioning for videos with audio content. City employees reported that they affirmatively click on the button to include closed captioning for all City videos uploaded to Facebook and YouTube. Employees also stated they were prepared to add audio descriptions to important production pieces upon request.
Lastly, because web content is always changing, the City has posted a web accessibility policy which includes a process for community members to inform the City if they encounter inaccessible online content. There is also a process by which to request online material in an alternate format.
2.6.3 Areas for Further Evaluation
- Evaluate online services that are set up through third party software to ensure that they are accessible and/or that an alternative way for citizens to use the online program or service is offered.
- Continue to incorporate diversity and accessibility recommendations into content management guidelines and website governance policies as they are developed and implemented.
- Adopt accessibility guidelines for the Web portal to provide text for all graphic elements, have transcripts or a presentation versions for streaming video files, and design Web pages so that all information conveyed with color is also available without color.
- Develop policies and procedures to work with vendors of linked sites that provide City services to correct accessibility problems and ensure that future versions are accessible.
- Include appropriate accessibility requirements in ISD contracts and procurement criteria for software used by the public.
- Strive to adhere to W3C World Wide Web Consortium Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0, Level A and Level AA Success Criteria and other Conformance Requirements, commonly referred to as WCAG 2.0 AA.4.*
* In June 2018, Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1 were adopted. The most current version is always available at the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) homepage.