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hand pointing to computer screen showing ZOOM text assistive technology When last we wrote on this topic in spring of 2016, the Department of Justice (DOJ) was set to issue proposed regulations on web information and services for state and local governments.  In a turn of events, the DOJ instead issued a rare Supplemental Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (SANPRM) in “order to solicit public comment on various issues relating to the potential application of such technical requirements to the websites of Title II entities and to obtain information for preparing a regulatory impact analysis.”

The Massachusetts Office on Disability (MOD), with the help of our state partners, submitted a detailed response addressing many of the 123 questions in the SANPRM.  The questions sought responses regarding the impact of the potential requirements on small entities and public institutions, assessing compliance costs, and a timeline for compliance, to name a few.  Our response reiterated the need for the DOJ to balance the interests and abilities of state and local governments while ensuring access and equal opportunity via the implementation of enforceable cognizable technical standards.

Although ADA, Title II standards are still in process, the DOJ has attained settlement agreements with certain state and local entities requiring web access compliance with the ADA non-discrimination provisions and with the industry web access technical standard: the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 AA.  As an example, DOJ’s Project Civic Access recently secured a settlement agreement with Milwaukee, Wisconsin that requires the city to ensure that its website and all online services, including websites or online services provided by third parties, comply with WCAG 2.0 AA, among other obligations.  Also, in a recent consent decree obtained with the Ohio public institution Miami University we have seen the most robust obligations enforced against a public education institution to date.

With obligations and enforcement activities increasing, we urge public entities to review their websites, databases, e-learning software and other technologies to ensure compliance.  As the ADA Coordinating Agency for the Executive Branch of Massachusetts state government, our office stands to be a resource for technical assistance on the topic of web information and services accessibility. Moreover, MOD was pleased to serve on the Strategic Sourcing Team for the new statewide contract for IT accessibility Services (ITS61).  ITS61 can help government entities get expert assistance to ensure that information technology services do not discriminate against people with disabilities and can be used for testing websites and applications for accessibility among other things.  Please contact our office for more information on this topic, and I will provide periodic updates as well.

MOD strives to provide technical assistance regarding web accessibility to ensure that persons with disabilities have equal access to web-based information and services.

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References:

  1. SANPRM: Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability; Accessibility of Web Information and Services of State and Local Government Entities 28 CFR Part 35 [CRT Docket No. 128] RIN 1190-AA65 (April 29, 2016)
  2. Settlement Agreement Between The United States of America and the City of Milwaukee, Wisconsin DJ# 204-85-119 (June 9, 2016)
  3. Dudley, et al. v. Miami University, et al., Civil Action No. 1:14-cv-38 (S.D. Ohio), and arising out of United States Department of Justice Investigation No. 204-58-229 (October 17, 2016)

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