New York State Bill makes vendors and contractors liable for website accessibility
Mar 23 2023
The New York State Senate Bill S7572A, requiring contractors and vendors who supply websites and related services to the state to confirm that the sites and/or services meet website accessibility standards, became law on December 2, 2022 and will take effect on May 31, 2023. This bill has significant implications for contractors and vendors who work with the state, as well as for the state itself.
Existing law was amended by adding a new section 170-f. 2. to read as follows:
“Each contractor, subcontractor, vendor, consultant, or other person providing services pursuant to a state contract shall be required to conform any website provided by such contractor, subcontractor, vendor, consultant, or person in relation to and for the purpose of the provision of such services to the most current version of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines adopted by the World Wide Web Consortium for accessibility, or any successor standards.”1
Purpose and Implications of the bill
The purpose of the bill is to ensure that all websites and services provided to the state are accessible to people living with disabilities. In particular, the bill requires contractors and vendors to comply with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1, Level AA. These guidelines are a set of technical standards developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) to ensure that websites are accessible to people living with disabilities, including those who are blind, deaf, or have limited mobility.
The implications of this bill for contractors and vendors are significant. Underpinning all state website contracts will be the legal requirement to ensure compliance, which will mean an indemnification for the state purchaser in relation to ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) litigation. The greatest and most immediate impact will be felt on those related to and responsible for delivering website systems and projects. Unless they specifically and explicitly have applied for and received contractual approval ‘not to meet accessibility, ADA and / or WCAG requirements’ they are going to be the ones liable for litigation costs and damages to the plaintiff and state defender.
Enforcing the bill
However, a key question is how state procurers will validate that websites and related services actually meet the accessibility compliance requirements? Will vendors and contractors continue to be allowed to self-certify, effectively marking their own homework, or will the state independently verify compliance? Whilst the latter is surely preferable, the standards themselves are complex and constantly evolving. In addition, current audit and reporting methods are typically technical and difficult to understand. Will state procurers have the resources and expertise to monitor vendor adherence to website delivery and accessibility service commitments?
If contractors supply websites which don’t comply, failure could prove expensive. The bill is an important step towards ensuring equal access to government services and information. However, monitoring vendor and contractor adherence may prove to be the biggest challenge.
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