Department of Justice Issues Guidance on Web Accessibility and The ADA
For the first time in 20 years, the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) has published guidance on website accessibility matters under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”).
In the publication, posted on March 18, 2022, and available at ADA.gov, the DOJ reiterates its priority for ensuring web accessibility for people with disabilities and emphasizes this is an obligation of both state and local governments under Title II of the ADA, and businesses that are open to the public, or public accommodations, under Title III.
The guidance provides a non-exclusive listing of examples, options, and resources for assistance and guidance in making websites available to the disabled. Importantly, however, the technical assistance states that “The Department of Justice does not have a regulation setting out detailed standards, but the Department’s longstanding interpretation of the general nondiscrimination and effective communication provisions applies to web accessibility.” Thus, as the publication further notes, businesses and states have flexibility in how they comply with the ADA general requirements as to websites, but they still must ensure that the programs and services in good faith provided to the public are accessible to people with disabilities.
The publication also notes that automated accessibility checkers and overlays can be helpful tools in identifying or fixing problems, but that they need to be used carefully. The DOJ further states that pairing a manual check of a website with the use of automated checkers can give a better sense of the accessibility of the website. The DOJ also explains that the existing technical standards provide helpful guidance concerning how to ensure accessibility, and refers to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and the Section 508 standards utilized by the Federal Government for its own website.
ShuffieldLowman is ready to assist companies and clients with respect to issues that may arise from ADA website compliance. For additional questions on ADA website accessibility, please contact our commercial and civil litigation or corporate law teams. Visit our contact page here.