GR US

Making the Archdiocese Website More Accessible to Those with Disabilities

Αssociated Press

FILE - His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros was honored by AHEPA Delphi Chapter #25. (Photo: TNH/ Kostas Bej)

Archbishop Elpidophoros and staff at the Archdiocese of America are taking steps to make its website more accessible to those with disabilities, after a TNH inquiry.

"As a follow-up to [TNH writer Theo Karantsalis's] inquiry and to my initial response on behalf of His Eminence, our Department of Information Technology and Department of Internet Ministries were asked to look into the web site to explore ways it might be made friendlier to individuals with physical challenges," said Nicholas Anton Director, Department of Inter-Orthodox, Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations.

The Archdiocese's website, located at goarch.org, has recently been tested and analyzed to bring it into greater alignment with compliance and recommendations as set forth by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, Anton said.

“It’s wonderful to see a religious organization that is recognizing the importance of web accessibility, said Lainey Feingold, a Berkeley-based disability rights lawyer and author. "This will help not just the congregation, but potential members, staff and volunteers who want to easily be able to find information and learn about the church’s programs."

As the population ages, Feingold added, accessibility grows even more important.

During an accessibility audit report, the website scored 73 percent for compliance, said Anton. By comparison, he said, the ADA’s own web site scored a 78 percent compliance rating.

The Archdiocese's Information Technology Department conducted additional scans which provided "further insights." After an exhaustive evaluation, staff outlined some areas that can be improved going forward, including:

  • Adding alternative text with images. This will ensure that all images have an alternative text equivalent for visually impaired individuals. A document is being prepared for Archdiocese staff to ensure that they include alternative text descriptions with images.
  • Updating designs lacking contrast. This will be addressed over time with new visuals and a full audit will be performed for legacy graphics.
  • The Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart feature known as a "CAPTCHA" will be updated to include alternative options. Officials said that some of the current CAPTCHA challenges are compliant while others are not, and this issue will be addressed in full by upgrading the Archdiocese website to the latest version.
  • Keyboard accessibility. The theme or template of the website will need to be modified to allow for keyboard navigation, officials said, as they look into the matter further to determine modification and upgrade costs.
  • Improving links with alternative texts. In some instances, links simply say “read more," officials said, and these system-generated and user-created links will need to have alternative text options included.
"People with many different disabilities benefit from websites, mobile apps, and other technologies that work for everyone," said Feingold. "This includes people who cannot see a screen, hear video content, or hold a mouse."

The Archdiocese told TNH that Chief Information Officer Theo Nicolakis has shared the report findings as well as recommendations with His Eminence Elpidophoros.

"In order to ensure all of our content is fully accessible we will require further website development, training in best practices for content creators, and regular audits to ensure all content on the website meets the standards we set," said Anton, who thanked the National Herald for bringing this matter to the Archdiocese's attention.

"This is an important and worthwhile endeavor that requires additional staff time and effort at every step of the content creation process."

TNH contributor Theo Karantsalis is a Florida-based disabled rights advocate who is working closely with His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros to help make the Greek church more welcoming and accessible to parishioners and others with physical and mental health issues.