Navigating the Evolving Landscape of Digital Accessibility Regulations Across the US and Beyond

Apr 12 2024

The Importance of Accessibility Laws

As the digital landscape continues to evolve, staying informed about new regulations is crucial, especially regarding digital accessibility. Several states and jurisdictions in the US and Ireland have implemented or proposed regulations aimed at enhancing digital accessibility, ensuring that digital products and services are accessible to individuals with disabilities. They establish baseline accessibility standards and impact various industries, including e-commerce, telecommunications, banking, and technology.

Demonstrating Reasonable Adjustments for Digital Accessibility

Businesses are required to take proactive measures to ensure compliance with digital accessibility regulations. Like a building without adjustments for the disabled creating barriers to access and usability, neglecting digital accessibility on a website erects similar hurdles for users with disabilities. Just as ensuring physical infrastructure meets accessibility standards is crucial, so is verifying and addressing website accessibility. It's essential to independently verify digital accessibility, rather than solely relying on a vendor's assurance of compliance.

Upholding Digital Accessibility Standards

As you await confirmation from the vendor, a process that can often be time-consuming, how can you ensure you're demonstrating reasonable adjustments for digital accessibility?

Taking proactive measures to address digital accessibility not only showcases your commitment to providing equal access to all users, regardless of ability, but also helps mitigate legal liabilities. Regulatory authorities are designated to enforce compliance with digital accessibility requirements. Penalties for non-compliance may include fines, sanctions, or even imprisonment, highlighting the importance of adhering to regulatory standards.

Take action now and check your website yourself at www.AAAtraq.com/check (opens in a new window) (it's free and doesn't require any contact information).

Regulatory Updates Roundup

New York’s Senate Bill (SB) 3114A

Signed into law in December 2023, this bill mandates that state agency and county websites adhere to Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.2.

Emphasising Manual Testing: This legislation underscores the significance of manual testing to ensure compliance with their policy regarding information and communications technologies (ICT). It highlights the inadequacy of relying solely on automated tools and strongly recommends conducting regular manual tests to promptly address accessibility issues on digital platforms.

Additional Requirements: The bill also stipulates the inclusion of a visible accessibility link on state agency websites and requires awareness among contractors and subcontractors involved in development to enhance accessibility implementation across New York state agencies.

Further Reading on Senate Bill S3114A (opens in a new window).

Colorado’s House Bill (HB) 21-1110

Unlike New York, Colorado’s legislation extends its scope to include all public entities within the state. Introduction of Civil Penalties: One key feature is the introduction of civil penalties for non-compliance, allowing lawsuits against entities failing to meet WCAG standards, with penalties reaching $3,500 per claim. This provision serves as a strong incentive for plaintiffs advocating for accessibility rights.

Effective Date: The law will be fully effective on July 1st 2024, representing a notable step forward in promoting accessibility across Colorado’s public sector.

Further Reading on House Bill 21-1110 (opens in a new window)

Virginia’s House Bill 1355

While Colorado focuses on enforcing WCAG standards and penalties for non-compliance, HB 1355 targets procurement practices.

Requirement for Accessibility Conformance Report: The bill mandates public entities in Virginia, including state agencies, public education institutions and political subdivisions to obtain an ‘Accessibility Conformance Report’ from vendors, completed by a digital accessibility expert or neutral third party.

Effective Date and Policy Development: Set to take effect on July 1st 2025, the bill also defines ‘information and communication technology’ related to digital accessibility and allows covered entities to designate a digital accessibility coordinator responsible for developing and implementing digital accessibility policies.

Further Reading on House Bill 1355 (opens in a new window)

California’s Assembly Bill (AB) 1757

California’s Legislative Evolution: California’s AB 1757, now rebranded as SB 41486, resurfaces with familiar themes, sparking renewed interest and speculation. Originally introduced to clarify website accessibility requirements, the bill encountered criticism for potential litigation escalation. Despite being deferred in August 2023, stakeholders anticipate its return in 2024, hoping for revisions to address concerns and strike a balance between reducing lawsuits and improving accessibility.

Potential Impact of AB 1757: AB 1757 seeks to establish stringent accessibility standards, mandating compliance with WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) 2.1 Level AA. Non-compliance could result in penalties, annual certifications and liability for businesses and third-party developers. While the bill awaits further deliberation, its potential impact extends beyond California, potentially influencing national accessibility standards and raising questions about its interaction with federal laws like the ADA. As debates continue, the bill’s passage in 2024 could reshape digital accessibility nationwide.

Further Reading on Assembly Bill 1757 (opens in a new window)
https://trackbill.com/bill/california-assembly-bill-1757-accessibility-internet-websites/2385824/ (opens in a new window)
https://equalentry.com/website-accessibility-california-assembly-bill/ (opens in a new window)

Ireland’s Implementation of the European Accessibility Act (EAA)

Across the water, legislation incorporating the European Accessibility Act into Irish law mandates accessibility standards for products and services effective from June 28th 2025.

Strengthened Enforcement. Recent Irish legislation strengthens enforcement with severe penalties for non-compliance, including fines of up to € 60,000 and potential imprisonment for up to 18 months, serving as a tangible incentive for organisations to prioritise accessibility.

Complementary Regulations: The EAA complements existing Irish disability legislation, requiring adherence to WCAG Level AA standards. Organisations must act proactively to meet accessibility standards by the deadline, (Ireland having missed the original deadline in 2022) highlighting the country’s renewed commitment to accessibility initiatives.

Further Reading on Ireland's Implementation of the EAA (opens in a new window)

Embracing Accessibility: A Legal Obligation and Business Imperative

Digital Accessibility is becoming a global priority. Beyond mere legal compliance, it’s a strategic business decision. By prioritising accessibility, organisations not only fulfil legal requirements but also improve the user experience for all individuals, fostering inclusivity and expanding audience reach. While the path to accessibility may appear daunting, the ever-evolving regulations provide a framework and roadmap for organisations to navigate the complexities of compliance.

The overall message is clear: take action! Prioritise accessibility efforts and embark on the journey towards creating more inclusive digital experiences. Don’t rely solely on vendors to ensure your content is accessible - be proactive. Take the first step and check your website content today at www.AAAtraq.com/check. Thinking this is not your problem and waiting until after the deadlines could result in costly consequences and potential imprisonment.

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