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hands typing on laptopWe celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 2015. As we look to the future, an increasingly important area to address is web accessibility. Since the passing of the ADA, the internet has dramatically changed the way that government entities serve the public; citizens can now use state government websites to correspond with officials and obtain information about government services.

Although the Internet as we know it today did not exist when Congress enacted the ADA, state and local government websites and items posted thereon must be accessible given the ADA’s language: “The ADA requires that state…governments provide qualified individuals with disabilities equal access to their programs, services, or activities.” As state governments increase online services, the obligations to provide equal access on the web carry accordingly.

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has not yet provided clear and concise guidelines on web accessibility. In 2010, DOJ published an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) and put forth its plan to promulgate new regulations under Title II of the ADA to provide a construct for dealing with accessibility of state and local government websites. However, given the regulatory delays, we are still waiting for Title II regulations that are anticipated to be released for comment in 2016.

Meanwhile, litigation and resulting settlements have shown that the obligation to make websites (and anything posted thereto) accessible is real.  Numerous recent settlement agreements attained by DOJ with state and local governments require that these entities make their websites conform to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 and the ADA.

MOD continues to work with and advocate for state and local governments to make web accessibility as one of their top priorities.  In the absence of regulations, tracking standards like WCAG 2.0 A and AA provide a framework and guidance for accessibility. Also, entities can monitor litigation settlements, especially those in which the DOJ filed Statements of Interest, which will provide some guidance as entities strive to be compliant. The Commonwealth has adopted its own MassIT standards, mirroring WCAG 2.0.  At MOD we strive to provide guidance and support to state agencies regarding web accessibility and we ask that you help raise awareness on this issue and the obligations under the ADA.

Additional Resources:

MassIT Accessibility Guidance

Web Content Guidelines at a Glance

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General Counsel

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