Accessibility Policy

The State Office of Administrative Hearings Accessibility policy sets forth the agency’s responsibilities with regard to federal and state accessibility laws, specifically, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Texas Government Code, Subchapter M, Access to Electronic and Information Resources by Individuals with Disabilities.

The Americans with Disabilities Act is the civil rights law for persons with disabilities. It was passed in 1990 as a mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities and it establishes enforceable standards for eliminating discrimination and provides civil rights protections to people with disabilities. Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act covers employment. Title I is managed by Human Resources because it involves the State Office of Administrative Hearings as an employer in relationship to its employees.

Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act covers the programs and services operated by state and local governments; these are also known as public entities. Title II is intended to protect qualified individuals with disabilities from discrimination on the basis of disability in the services, programs, or activities of all state and local governments.

The State Office of Administrative Hearings does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, religion, age, genetic information, or disability in employment or in the provision of services. Additional information about accessibility programs in Texas is available from the Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities.

To be compliant with Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the State Office of Administrative Hearings must ensure that persons with disabilities have access to all services and programs. No qualified individual with a disability can be excluded from participation in or denied benefit from the State Office of Administrative Hearings’ services, programs or activities.

A public entity may not deny the benefits of its programs, activities, and services to individuals with disabilities because its facilities are inaccessible. A public entity's services, programs, or activities, when viewed in their entirety, must be readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities. The goal is to promote equality of opportunity and full participation. The State Office of Administrative Hearings works to ensure that every program, service, benefit, activity and the Office operated or owned facility open to the public is accessibly and useable by people with disabilities.

A member of the public with a disability, who may need auxiliary aids or services, including an interpreter for the hearing impaired, is asked to contact the State Office of Administrative Hearings Americans with Disabilities Act Coordinator.

The State Office of Administrative Hearings Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Coordinator may be reached by United States Postal Mail, telephone, fax, or email at:

Mail: 			ADA Coordinator
				State Office of Administrative Hearings
				P.O. Box 13025
				Austin, Texas 78711-3025
				
Telephone: 		512.305.9386 or the use the relay option of your choice
Fax: 				512.936.0769
Email: 			SOAH.ADA@soah.texas.gov

A member of the public who is a party to a contested case or administrative hearing before the State Office of Administrative Hearings is required to comply with applicable Office rules of procedures regarding interpreters in State Office of Administrative Hearings proceedings. See 1 Tex. Admin. Code §§ 155.407 and 159.211(e).

All State Office of Administrative Hearings facilities are accessible to persons with disabilities. To request special assistance accessing any of the State Office of Administrative Hearings facilities, please contact the State Office of Administrative Hearings Americans with Disabilities Act Coordinator.

The Austin Headquarters of the State Office of Administrative Hearings is in the William P. Clements Building located at:

 
Street Address: 	300 W. 15th 
				Austin,Texas 78701

The main William P. Clements Building entrance is on 15th Street. There is a separate entrance at the back of the building. Ramps to enter the building are located at each of the listed entrances. The State Office of Administrative Hearings field offices are inspected for Americans with Disabilities Act compliance by the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation.

Under Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act regarding employees and employment by the State Office of Administrative Hearings, the Office does not discriminate on the basis of disability in its hiring or employment practices and complies with all regulations promulgated by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission under Title I of the ADA. The State Office of Administrative Hearings’ Personnel Manual governs employment related complaints of disability discrimination.

Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act provides that “no qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of such disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, programs, or activities of a public entity, or be subjected to discrimination by any such entity.” 42 U.S.C.A. § 12132. In accordance with the requirements of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the State Office of Administrative Hearings will not discriminate against qualified individuals with disabilities on the basis of disability in its services, programs, or activities.

The State Office of Administrative Hearings will make all reasonable modifications to policies and programs to ensure that people with disabilities have an equal opportunity to enjoy all of its programs, services, and activities. The State Office of Administrative Hearings has designated its Director of Human Resources as the Americans with Disabilities Act Coordinator for the Office. The State Office of Administrative Hearings Americans with Disabilities Act Coordinator advises the State Office of Administrative Hearings and the public about the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Office’s compliance obligations; and coordinates the investigation of complaints filed by the public alleging discrimination in State Office of Administrative Hearings’ programs, services, or activities.

Under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the State Office of Administrative Hearings is required to take steps to ensure that their communications with people with disabilities are as effective as communications with others. Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act requires government entities, such as the State Office of Administrative Hearings, to make appropriate auxiliary aids and services available to ensure effective communication. The State Office of Administrative Hearings will generally, upon request, provide appropriate aids and services leading to effective communication for qualified individuals with disabilities so they can participate equally in the State Office of Administrative Hearings’ programs, services, and activities, including qualified sign language interpreters, documents in Braille, and other ways of making information and communications accessible to individuals who have speech, hearing, or vision impairments. The State Office of Administrative Hearings can generally obtain requested interpreters in a short period of time when necessary.

Examples of auxiliary aids and services that can increase communication with individuals who are deaf or with hearing disabilities are:

  • Qualified Interpreters
  • Note takers
  • Transcription Services
  • Written Materials
  • Closed Caption Decoders
  • Telephone Handset Amplifiers
  • Assistive Listening Services
  • TTY’s
  • Videotext Displays

The State Office of Administrative Hearings acknowledges that it is not appropriate to request a hearing impaired individual’s family member or companion to serve as a sign language interpreter.

Examples of auxiliary aids that can increase communication and services with individuals who are blind or with visual disabilities are:

  • Qualified Readers
  • Taped Texts
  • Audio Recordings
  • Braille Materials
  • Physical Assistance for Guidance
  • Large Print Materials
  • Materials on Computer Diskettes or CDs
  • Audio Descriptions

Examples of auxiliary aids that can increase communication and services for individuals who have cognitive disabilities:

  • Readers
  • Communication Assistance
  • Graphic Presentations
  • Use of Clear and Concise Language
  • Repetition
  • Pictogram

Member of the Public not a Party before the State Office of Administrative Hearings

To request an accommodation, alternative format of communication, and/or modification of policies and procedures in order to access and benefit from State Office of Administrative Hearings programs, services and activities, an individual who is a member of the public who is not a party to a proceeding before the Office can submit a “Reasonable Request for Accommodation Form” (alternative formats available upon request) and/or contact the State Office of Administrative Hearings Americans with Disabilities Act Coordinator as soon as possible but no later than ten (10) business days before the scheduled event (if relevant).

The State Office of Administrative Hearings Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Coordinator may be reached by United States Postal Mail, telephone, fax, or email at:

Mail: 			ADA Coordinator
				State Office of Administrative Hearings
				P.O. Box 13025
				Austin, Texas 78711-3025
				
Telephone: 		512.305.9386 or the use the relay option of your choice
Fax: 				512.936.0769
Email: 			SOAH.ADA@soah.texas.gov

Party or Witness at the State Office of Administrative Hearings

To request an accommodation, alternative format of communication, and/or modification of policies and procedures in order to access and benefit from State Office of Administrative Hearings programs, services and activities, an individual who is a party or a witness in a contested case or administrative hearing at the Office is required to comply with applicable State Office of Administrative Hearings rules of procedures regarding interpreters in Office proceedings. See 1 Tex. Admin. Code §§ 155.407 and 159.211(e).

For general cases, a party or witness who needs an interpreter or translator in order to participate in a proceeding must file a written request at least seven days before the setting. 1 Tex. Admin. Code § 155.407. SOAH will provide and pay for the following:

  • 1. An interpreter for hearing-impaired parties and witnesses, in accordance with Tex. Gov't Code §2001.055;
  • Reader services or other communication services for visually-impaired parties and witnesses; and
  • A certified language interpreter.

1 Tex. Admin. Code § 155.407(b).

For administrative suspension, denial, or disqualification of drivers’ licenses under the Administrative License Revocation Program governed by Texas Transportation Code, Chapters 522, 524, and 724, a party shall file a written request at least seven days before the hearing. 1 Tex. Admin. Code § 159.211(e). The State Office of Administrative Hearings will provide and pay for:

  • An interpreter for deaf or hearing impaired parties and subpoenaed witnesses in accordance with §2001.055 of the APA;
  • Reader services or other communication services for blind and sight impaired parties and witnesses; and
  • A certified language interpreter for parties and witnesses who need that service.

1 Tex. Admin. Code § 159.211(e). If the defendant fails to make a timely request, the judge may provide an interpreter or may continue the hearing to secure an interpreter. 1 Tex. Admin. Code § 159.211(f).

When a qualified individual with a disability requires an auxiliary aid or service to ensure effective communication, the individual may request the auxiliary aid or service of his or her choice. The State Office of Administrative Hearings gives primary consideration to the choice expressed by the individual. Primary consideration means that the Office will honor the choice, unless it can show that another equally effective means of communication is available, or that use of the means chosen would result in (1) a fundamental alteration in the nature of its service, program, or activity, or (2) an undue financial or administrative burden.

When the preferred type of auxiliary aid or service is not available or will not be provided, the State Office of Administrative Hearings Americans with Disabilities Act Coordinator or designee will consult with the requesting individual and will ascertain whether an alternative means of communication will ensure effective communication. The State Office of Administrative Hearings Americans with Disabilities Act Coordinator may ask the requesting individual for additional relevant information where additional relevant information would be helpful in responding to the request for accommodations.

The Americans with Disabilities Act Coordinator will, as soon as reasonably possible, provide a response to the request for accommodation, and notify the requesting individual whether the requested accommodation will be provided. This will be done in writing unless the short lead time of a request precludes a written notice. If the requesting individual is dissatisfied with the response, the individual may file a complaint using the complaint procedures provided by the State Office of Administrative Hearings.

In providing reasonable accommodation, although the State Office of Administrative Hearings gives primary consideration to the accommodation requested, the Office has exclusive authority to make decisions regarding accommodation requests. An alternative accommodation may be offered if equally effective. Every effort shall be made to meet the specific needs of the requesting individual. The Americans with Disabilities Act does not require the State Office of Administrative Hearings to take any action that would fundamentally alter the nature of its programs or services, or impose an undue financial or administrative burden.

Although providing accommodations may result in some additional cost, the State Office of Administrative Hearings may not place a surcharge only on particular individuals with disabilities to cover expenses. For example, there can be no extra charge to a deaf person for interpreter services, or to groups of people with disabilities.

Complaints that a program, service, or activity of the State Office of Administrative Hearings is not accessible to persons with disabilities should be directed to the State Office of Administrative Hearings Americans with Disabilities Act Coordinator in accordance with the Office’s Complaint Procedure under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

This complaint procedure is established by the State Office of Administrative Hearings to meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. It may be used by anyone who wishes to file a complaint alleging discrimination on the basis of disability in the provision of services, activities, programs, or benefits by the State Office of Administrative Hearings. This complaint procedure does not in any way limit other legal remedies that may be available. The State Office of Administrative Hearings’ Personnel Manual governs employment-related complaints of disability discrimination.

The complaint must be in writing and contain information about the alleged discrimination such as name, address, phone number of complainant and location, date, and description of the problem. The complaint must be submitted within twenty (20) calendar days from the alleged discrimination to the State Office of Administrative Hearings Americans with Disabilities Act Coordinator.

Alternative means of filing complaints, such as personal interviews or a tape recording of the complaint will be made available for persons with disabilities upon request.

The State Office of Administrative Hearings Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Coordinator may be reached by United States Postal Mail, telephone, fax, or email at:

Mail: 			ADA Coordinator
				State Office of Administrative Hearings
				P.O. Box 13025
				Austin, Texas 78711-3025
				
Telephone: 		512.305.9386 or the use the relay option of your choice
Fax: 				512.936.0769
Email: 			SOAH.ADA@soah.texas.gov

The complaint will be addressed through the Americans with Disabilities Act Coordinator, who will investigate it or forward it to an individual designated to investigate Americans with Disabilities Act complaints. Within ten (10) calendar days of receiving the complaint, the State Office of Administrative Hearings Americans with Disabilities Act Coordinator will send a letter to the complainant acknowledging receipt of the complaint. Complaints will be investigated promptly, unless the complainant is notified otherwise. In some case, the investigation will include interviews with other individuals, including those named in the complaint, and an examination of relevant document and files.

Within forty-five (45) calendar days of receipt of a complaint by the State Office of Administrative Hearings Americans with Disabilities Act Coordinator, the Office Americans with Disabilities Act Coordinator or designee will respond in writing, and where appropriate, in a format accessible to the complainant. The response will explain the position of State Office of Administrative Hearings and offer options for substantive resolution of the complaint.

If the response by the State Office of Administrative Hearings Americans with Disabilities Act Coordinator does not satisfactorily resolve the issue, the complainant may appeal the decision within thirty (30) calendar days after receipt of the response by the State Office of Administrative Hearings Americans with Disabilities Act Coordinator to the State Office of Administrative Hearings Chief Administrative Law Judge or designee. The appeal letter must be mailed to the State Office of Administrative Hearings Americans with Disabilities Act Coordinator at the contact information set forth above. The appeal letter must set out the reasons why the complainant disagrees with the determination and the remedy that the complainant believes is appropriate.

Within thirty (30) calendar days after receipt of the appeal, the State Office of Administrative Hearings Chief Administrative Law Judge or designee will make a final determination based upon a review of the information presented in the complaint and appeal. A copy of the final determination will be sent to the complainant in writing, and, where appropriate, in a format accessible to the complainant. The final determination may confirm the earlier determination, modify the earlier determination, modify the remedy, or reverse the earlier determination. The State Office of Administrative Hearings Americans with Disabilities Act Coordinator has the responsibility for implementing the final determination.

All written complaints received by the State Office of Administrative Hearings and resolutions or final determinations made by the Office will be retained by the State Office of Administrative Hearings for at least three years.

The resolution of complaints through this complaint procedure will try to comply with the time frames stated in the complaint procedure. However, strict compliance is not always possible due to, for example, the absence of witnesses, the need for additional information from the complainant, or the need to complete an unusually complex investigation. Whenever possible, the complainant will be notified of any delays.

The State Office of Administrative Hearings will not discriminate against any individual because that individual has opposed any act or practice made unlawful by Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act or because that individual made a charge, testified, assisted, or participated in any manner in an investigation, proceeding, or hearing under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The State Office of Administrative Hearings will not coerce, intimidate, threaten, or interfere with any individual in the exercise or enjoyment of, or on account of his or her having exercised or enjoyed, or on account of his or her having aided or encouraged any other individual in the exercise or enjoyment of, any right granted or protected by Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

An individual may file a claim of discriminatory treatment based upon disability in the services, programs or activities of the State Office of Administrative Hearings with an outside agency even when a complaint is pending using the State Office of Administrative Hearings complaint procedure. Time limits for filing disability discrimination claims with outside agencies may be different than the time limits for filing a complaint with the State Office of Administrative Hearings. Be sure to check with the outside agency for its filing deadlines.

The State Office of Administrative Hearings will not place a surcharge on an individual with a disability or any group of individuals with disabilities to cover the cost of providing auxiliary aids/services or for the reasonable modifications of policy. The Americans with Disabilities Act does not require the State Office of Administrative Hearings to take any action that would fundamentally alter the nature of its programs or services, or impose an undue financial or administrative burden.

The State Office of Administrative Hearings will develop, procure, maintain and use accessible electronic and information resources that conform to the state accessibility standards and specifications. See Tex. Gov’t Code § 2054.454; 1 Tex. Admin. Code Chapters 206 and 213.

Electronic and Information Resources Defined

Electronic and information resources mean information resources and any equipment or interconnected system of equipment that is used in the creation, conversion, or duplication of information resources. The term includes telephones and other telecommunications products, information kiosks, transaction machines, Internet websites, multimedia resources, and office equipment, including copy machines and fax machines. Tex. Gov’t Code § 2054.451(1).

Electronic and Information Resources Accessibility Coordinator

The State Office of Administrative Hearings’ Electronic and Information Resources Accessibility Coordinator provides leadership and guidance to all functional areas where electronic and information resources accessibility is required. The Electronic and Information Resources Accessibility Coordinator plans, monitors, and coordinates the agency’s accessibility program, including developing and maintaining policies, procedures, guidelines, and tools that meet the requirements of 1 Texas Administrative Code, Chapters 206 and 213, and Texas Government Code, Subchapter M, Chapter 2054.

The Electronic and Information Resources Accessibility Coordinator looks to the Department of Information Resources for guidance on accessibility compliance, including the electronic and information resources accessibility coordinator role.

The State Office of Administrative Hearings Electronic and Information Resources Accessibility Coordinator may be reached by United States Postal Mail, telephone, or email at:

Mail: 		EIR Accessibility Coordinator
			State Office of Administrative Hearings
			P.O. Box 13025
			Austin, Texas 78711-3025
			
Telephone: 	512.936.2067 
Email: 		SOAH.EIR@soah.texas.gov

Department of Information Resources Electronic and Information Resources Accessibility Survey

The State Office of Administrative Hearings conducts a biennial Information Resources Deployment Review and submits it to the Department of Information Resources by March 31st of each even-numbered year. As part of the Information Resources Deployment Review, the State Office of Administrative Hearings Electronic and Information Resources Accessibility Coordinator participates in responding to the Department of Information Resources electronic and information resources accessibility survey.

Accessibility Compliance Plan

In accordance with 1 Tex. Admin. Code §§ 206.51(b) and 213.21(b), the State Office of Administrative Hearings maintains a compliance plan for bringing electronic and information resources into compliance with state accessibility standards and specifications. The plan is consistent with the Department of Information Resources electronic and information resources accessibility framework and is available on the agency’s Intranet.

Accessibility and Usability of State Office of Administrative Hearings Websites

The State Office of Administrative Hearings will ensure that all new or changed web pages and web content complies with the standards and specifications of 1 Tex. Admin. Code § 206.50 unless an exception is approved by the Chief Administrative Law Judge or an exemption has been made by the Department of Information Resources. See also the State Office of Administrative Hearings’ Accessibility Compliance Exception Process set forth in this policy.

Web Page Testing and Validation

The State Office of Administrative Hearings Web team staff test and validate the accessibility of all new or changed web pages with a Section 508 compliance tool. 1 Tex. Admin. Code § 206.50(d). Additionally, staff may use optional testing and validation tools as a means to manually validate the accessibility of web pages and the following website check points:

  • Accessibility
  • Browser compatibility
  • Legal compliance
  • Broken links and errors
  • Spell checking
  • Search optimization
  • Web standards
  • User experience

The State Office of Administrative Hearings Webmaster tests agency websites using web validation tool. The Webmaster generates accessibility compliance reports for use by Information Technology Division technical staff, who are responsible for remediating inaccessible web pages and electronic and information resources.

The State Office of Administrative Hearings Webmaster may decide to remove inaccessible content from State Office of Administrative Hearings websites if Web team members fail to substantially comply with state specifications and standards unless the Chief Administrative Law Judge has granted an approved exception. See also State Office of Administrative Hearings’ Accessibility Compliance Exception Process set forth in this policy.

Electronic and Information Resources Accessibility

The State Office of Administrative Hearings will ensure all electronic and information resources developed, procured, or changed complies with the standards and specifications of 1 Tex. Admin. Code §§ 213.10 – 213.16 unless an exception is approved by the Chief Administrative Law Judge or an exemption has been made by the Department of Information Resources. See also State Office of Administrative Hearings’ Accessibility Compliance Exception Process set forth in this policy.

Electronic and information resources accessibility standards and specifications include the following categories:

  • Software applications and operating systems (1 Tex. Admin. Code § 213.10)
  • Telecommunications products (1 Tex. Admin. Code § 213.11)
  • Video and multimedia products (1 Tex. Admin. Code § 213.12)
  • Self-contained, closed products (1 Tex. Admin. Code § 213.13)
  • Desktop and portable computers (1 Tex. Admin. Code § 213.14)
  • Functional performance criteria (1 Tex. Admin. Code § 213.15)
  • Information, documentation, and support (1 Tex. Admin. Code § 213.16)

Procuring Electronic and Information Resources

The State Office of Administrative Hearings will ensure that all electronic and information resources products developed, procured or changed through a procured services contact, and all electronic and information resource services provided through hosted or managed services contracts comply with the provisions of 1 Texas Administrative Code, Chapters 206 and 213 unless the Chief Administrative Law Judge has approved an exception or the Department of Information Resources has approved an exemption. 1 Tex. Admin. Code § 213.18(e). See also State Office of Administrative Hearings’ Accessibility Compliance Exception Process set forth in this policy.

The State Office of Administrative Hearings will use the Voluntary Product Accessibility Template or the Buy Accessible Wizard to assess the degree of accessibility of a given product when making procurement decisions.

Accessibility Compliance Exception Process

The State Office of Administrative Hearings will strive to ensure all electronic and information resources are accessible unless compliance with the law imposes a significant difficulty or expense on the agency. Tex. Gov’t Code § 2054.460. The State Office of Administrative Hearings will ensure all electronic and information resources developed, procured or changed complies with the standards and specifications of 1 Texas Administrative Code, Chapters 206 and 213 unless an exception is approved by the Chief Administrative Law Judge or an exemption is approved by the Department of Information Resources. 1 Tex. Admin. Code § 213.17.

An approved exception includes the following:

  • A date of expiration
  • A plan for alternate means of access for persons with disabilities
  • Justification for the exception including relevant cost avoidance estimates
  • Signature of the Chief Administrative Law Judge

All staff may identify electronic and information resources that impose a significant difficulty or expense on the agency to make accessible; however, only the manager of each division may submit an exception request to the Electronic and Information Resources Accessibility Coordinator for the Chief Administrative Law Judge’s consideration. The State Office of Administrative Hearings’ process for requesting exceptions is available on the agency’s Intranet.

Alternate Means of Access to Inaccessible Electronic and Information Resources

The State Office of Administrative Hearings will provide alternate means of access to inaccessible electronic and information resources in accordance with the plan described in each accessibility compliance exception, as approved by the Chief Administrative Law Judge.

Within 10 calendar days of receiving a request for an alternate format or method, the State Office of Administrative Hearings will provide the alternate format or method or advise the requestor of the length of time it will take to provide the alternate format or method.

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