Digital Accessibility Regulations in the US

Accessibility regulations for the US. WCAG 2.0, 2.1, and ADA recommendations for a bulletproof accessibility strategy that's right for your organization.

Regulations Intro

We're always going to advocate for maximum inclusiveness, but we understand that's not always feasible in the short term.

Many of the regulations have sections pertaining to physical space, rules around hiring, and regulations governing accommodation. We focus on the rules around digital products and web pages, and you should consult a lawyer or other SME about your compliance in the physical world.

Quick note, as instructed by our lawyer: following our recommendations is not a guarantee of legal compliance. We are not lawyers and this is not legal advice.

Private Sector

Currently the private sector regulatory environment is a little unclear in the US. There have been some significant wins regarding accessibility in the courts recently, and on the whole there seems to be a broad legislative push toward technology regulation. However, the regulatory future is...uncertain.

There's a strong brand and business case for an accessibility initiative, and future EU, Canadian, and state regulations most likely will dictate some effort made to at least catalog and plan to remediate inaccessible parts of web platforms and pages.

Startups

A basic grasp of organizational accessibility, an accessibility statement, and a few spot audits might be enough to start your team building accessibly. A per-feature audit can be a manageably sized expense and will ultimately save money, time, and liability as your organization scales

Mature Businesses

A developer training, and a yearly comprehensive audit are minimum hygiene for people doing any considerable amount of marketing or business with technology. Beyond opening markets and increasing technical robustness, potential liability increases with a company's market share and surface area.

ADA Tax Credits

Depending on your org size (and structure), you may be eligible for an ADA tax credit for your accessibility efforts.

At Minimum:

  • Spot audits of features and employee documentation
  • Minimal accessibility statement

We Suggest:

  • Comprehensive technical audit to WCAG 2.1 AA
  • A clear project roadmap for remediation efforts

Extra Credit:

  • Accessibility statement and plan
  • Accessible helpdesk integration
  • Public accessibility roadmap

Higher Learning

Both public and private colleges and universities must provide equal access for students with disabilities. Title II (public funding) and Title III (private funding) of the ADA cover universities, community colleges, and vocational schools.

All public or private schools that receive federal funding are required by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights to make their programs accessible to students with disabilities. This includes digital programming, websites, job applications, admissions applications, and all other aspects of digital student life.

We Suggest:

  • Comprehensive Audit to WCAG 2.1 AA or AAA
  • Clear project roadmap for remediation efforts
  • Accessibility Statement and Plan
  • Accessible helpdesk Integration

Government and GovTech

Section 508 of the Rehabilitation act governs ICT (Internet and Communications Technologies), specifically:

  • Section 1194.21: Software Applications and Operating Systems
  • Section 1194.22: Web-based Internet Information and Applications
  • Section 1194.23: Telecommunications Products
  • Section 1194.24: Video and Multi-media Products
  • Section 1194.25: Self-Contained, Closed Products
  • Section 1194.26: Desktop and Portable Computers
  • Section 1194.31: Functional Performance Criteria
  • Section 1194.41: Information, Documentation and Support

The 2017 refresh of the rule brings it under the umbrella of WCAG 2.0, thus creating a standard for Federal Acquisition Regulation. Basically, new products for procurement by federal agencies must try to meet 508 requirements.

From the GSA:

Section 508 requires that when federal agencies develop, procure, maintain, or use electronic and information technology, federal employees with disabilities have access to and use of information and data that is comparable to the access and use by federal employees who are not individuals with disabilities, unless an undue burden would be imposed on the agency. Section 508 also requires that individuals with disabilities, who are members of the public seeking information or services from a federal agency, have access to and use of information and data that is comparable to that provided to the public who are not individuals with disabilities, unless an undue burden would be imposed on the agency.

We Suggest:

  • Comprehensive Audit to WCAG 2.0 AA
  • ACR/VPAT Documentation

References