Justice Department Finalizes ADA Rule Requiring Accessibility for State and Local Government Websites

By: Eve Hill

On April 24, 2024, the Department of Justice issued new guidelines requiring state and local government entities to make websites and mobile applications accessible for people with disabilities. This rule is a long-anticipated update of the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) Title II regulations and includes two- to three-year deadlines for compliance.

The Justice Department adopted the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 Level AA, a set of technical standards that includes 50 points required to make websites accessible. They include criteria such as ensuring good color contrast, keyboard (non-mouse) navigation, and tagging pictures and documents so they can be read with assistive technology by people with vision and other print disabilities. In addition, videos must include captions for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

The new rule is far-reaching. It applies to all government agencies and departments and will require them to ensure the companies they hire to design websites make them accessible. It covers both websites and mobile apps of all kinds of public services, from police departments and courts to public hospitals, schools, universities, libraries, and transit agencies.

Governmental jurisdictions with populations under 50,000 have three years (April 24, 2027) to make sure their web assets are compliant. Entities serving 50,000 or more people have two years (April 24, 2026) to become compliant.

There are exceptions allowed for archived content, certain pre-existing conventional electronic documents, certain content posted by third parties, individualized documents that are password-protected, and pre-existing social media posts.

Government entities, their leadership, their content creators, and their IT teams need to begin budgeting and planning their website and mobile application changes now. This is a complex process that requires not just content, design and programming considerations, but ongoing policies and procedures for formatting and testing as new content and functionality are added. These challenges have spawned an entire industry of services and online applications that provide varying degrees of expertise and effectiveness.

Inclusivity Strategic Consulting works to help government entities navigate a clear path to web accessibility to best serve all of their audiences and minimize potential liability. Inclusivity can help covered entities adopt policies and procedures, priorities, and contractual requirements to make their websites and mobile apps accessible and keep them accessible into the future. Inclusivity is part of Brown, Goldstein & Levy, a leading civil rights law firm with offices in Baltimore, MD and Washington, DC.

Here’s a link for more details on the ruling from the Department of Justice.