What You Need to Know About the Americans with Disabilities Act Website Accessibility Requirements
The ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (“ADAAA”) was signed into law by President George W. Bush on September 25, 2008. In 2016, the U.S. Department of Justice issued its Final Rule on implementation of the ADAAA, which affirms the broad definition of disability and requires governmental entities to take steps to ensure maximum service accessibility to those with disabilities, including web-based service accessibility. The Final Rule became effective on October 11, 2016.
An increasing number of government services are provided on websites. Although web-based service delivery has advantages like decreasing personnel costs and 24/7 availability, it also creates a new set of challenges for serving citizens who are disabled. Pursuant to the ADAAA, individuals with disabilities must have equal, or as close to it as practical, access to all of the services, programs and benefits found on the governmental entity’s website. “Services” includes things like registering for programs, applying for permits, signing up for notifications, submitting job applications, and accessing general information like facility location.
Website accessibility can be achieved by using a variety of tools. For instance, many vision impaired individuals use screen readers that read the webpage content aloud. These devices ”read” the HTML that sits behind the webpage. These devices do not work properly when there are pictures, videos, flash or other “unreadable” objects on the screen unless descriptors are added that tell the screen reader how to describe the picture or video.
Similarly, audio content can be inaccessible to hearing impaired users. Providing a link to a closed-captioned version of the video or a text version of the audio make this content available without substantial cost. Such solutions are typically easy to incorporate into a website provided the web designer is instructed to do so. Therefore, it is important to make your department’s web designer aware of the access goals early in the design or redesign process.
Some helpful guides for overcoming typical website access issues can be found at: Website Accessibility Under Title II of the ADA, https://www.ada.gov/pcatoolkit/chap5toolkit.htm, or Accessibility of State and Local Government Websites to People with Disabilities, https://archive.ada.gov/websites2_scrn.pdf.
Emily J. Powell is an attorney at Ireland Stapleton PC. She advises park and recreation districts on legal matters that impact the day-to-day operations of their organizations. You can reach Emily at 303-628-3629 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article is intended as general information. If legal advice is needed, you should consult an attorney.