DOJ Moves Closer to Updating Web Accessibility Rules

May 10 2023 VITAC
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The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) took a step closer to updating web accessibility rules for state and local government entities under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The DOJ recently shared its proposed updates with the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, a central authority within the Executive Office of the President responsible for reviewing drafts of proposed and final regulations.

The review process is designed to, among other things, ensure proposals comply with federal regulatory principles, promote interagency review, and outline costs and benefits. The proposal still is pending review.

An article in Educause notes that the office generally reviews a draft regulation within 90 days but that the period may be indefinitely extended by the head of the rulemaking agency. The 90-day timeline, though, aligns with the date that DOJ has most recently targeted for the release of its proposed rulemaking.

The latest regulatory agenda update specifies a May 2023 release, with a two-month comment period concluding in July.

It’s been more than a decade since the DOJ first issued its notice of proposed rulemaking on website accessibility, and five years since the department announced that it was withdrawing that same rulemaking and technical guidance. That decision to abandon its rulemaking caused uncertainty for businesses, retailers, and owners and operators of public websites as to what, if any, benchmarks they must meet to comply with ADA requirements.

However, the DOJ last March published basic guidance on web accessibility, outlining how state and local governments (entities covered by ADA Title II) and businesses open to the public (entities covered by ADA Title III) can make sure their websites are accessible to people with disabilities in line with the ADA’s requirements.

That guidance came a month after a letter sent by 181 disability organizations requested the department communicate enforceable online accessibility standards by the end of the current administration.