CA Bill 1757 / Accessibility Impact

Mar 26 2024

California Assembly Bill 1757: The Potential Impact on Website Accessibility

California is considering the adoption of new legislation aimed at modernising its regulations concerning web accessibility.

Assembly Bill 1757 is on the verge of embracing the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 level AA as the prevailing standard for websites and mobile applications providing products or services. Should this bill come into effect, websites and apps must adhere to specific accessibility criteria outlined in WCAG 2.1 thus guaranteeing usability for individuals with disabilities. This potential legislative update emphasises California’s commitment to fostering digital inclusivity and ensuring equal access to online resources for all citizens.

Implications Beyond California

Given California’s influential role in shaping legislative trends across the nation, if enacted, AB-1757 could establish a precedent for accessibility standards and legal frameworks that would reverberate nationwide. This would impact businesses inside and even outside California that have customers within the state. Consequently, any company engaging with Californian consumers would need to ensure compliance with WCAG 2.1 level AA to mitigate the risk of legal action. In essence, AB-1757 has the potential to set a new standard in accessibility for businesses operating in the digital sphere across the country.

Holding Developers Accountable

A notable aspect of the bill is its provision to hold third-party developers accountable for accessibility non-compliance. This extension of liability means that developers, in addition to website owners or operators, can now face legal consequences for accessibility non-compliance. This shift empowers individuals with disabilities and businesses to take legal action against developers who fail to meet accessibility standards. This could potentially lead to a surge in court cases, depending on how vigorously the accessibility standards are enforced and how responsive developers are to compliance requirements.

The Feasibility of Achieving WCAG 2.1 AA Compliance

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) encompass three levels of conformance: Level A (the lowest), Level AA and Level AAA (the highest). Among these, Level AA is widely regarded as the most referenced accessibility standard, frequently cited in laws and regulations. Consequently, achieving Level AA conformance is generally deemed a realistic and attainable objective. However, challenges arise when considering the practicality of achieving full compliance, particularly given the complexity and constantly evolving nature of websites, raising questions about the feasibility of achieving complete compliance with the law.

Consequences for Non-Compliance

The bill underscores the importance of adhering to digital accessibility standards by outlining significant repercussions for non-compliance. These consequences include statutory fines, attorney’s fees, and injunctive relief, which serve as both financial penalties and legal deterrents for businesses and developers. By imposing such penalties, the bill creates strong incentives for prioritising accessibility in digital products and services, ensuring that all necessary resources and efforts are dedicated to this goal.

Deep Dive into the Discussion

Ken Nakata, from Converge Accessibility, and Thomas Logan, CEO and founder of Equal Entry, delve into the implications of AB-1757 (opens in a new window). Their conversation highlights nuanced perspectives surrounding this legislation. Overall, they express a shared belief in its transformative potential for advancing digital accessibility and creating a more equitable online environment. They emphasise the importance of inclusive design practices and acknowledge the legislation’s role in holding developers and businesses accountable for creating accessible digital experiences.

Looking Ahead

As California takes strides towards advancing digital inclusion, California Assembly Bill 1757 prompts a broader conversation about the future landscape of digital accessibility laws and the roles of developers and businesses. While challenges remain, the bill represents a significant step forward, signalling a commitment to fostering digital environments that are inclusive for all users. Discussions sparked by AB-1757 lay the groundwork for shaping a more inclusive digital future, underscoring the ongoing evolution of digital accessibility standards and practices.

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