Proposed Federal Regulations: The ADA and Local Government Websites
September 21, 2023
On August 4, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would update federal regulations governing Title II of the American Disability Act (ACA). Title II of the ADA requires state and local governments to ensure that individuals with disabilities are afforded an equal opportunity to benefit from all state and local programs, services, and activities. DOJ’s proposed regulations adopt an internationally recognized technical standard that state and local governments would have to follow to meet their existing obligations under Title II of the ADA for website and mobile application accessibility.
Who does this affect?
The proposed regulation would apply to public entities as defined under Title II of the ADA, namely state and local governments, as well as any department, agency, special purpose entity, or other instrumentality of a state.
What do the proposed regulations require, specifically?
Among other provisions, state and local websites and mobile apps would need to comply with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), Version 2.1 AA. Notably, these WCAG guidelines are already the governing standards for both Title II and Title III of the ADA (state & local governments, and businesses).
There are several exceptions to the requirements, such as “The proposed requirements in the NPRM would not apply to any actions that would result in a fundamental alteration of a service, program, or activity of a covered entity, or impose undue financial and administrative burdens. Such a determination would need to be made by the head of the public entity, or his or her designee.”
What is the timeframe for compliance?
Public entities with a population of 50,000 or more (per the U.S. Census Bureau) would need to comply within two years of the publication of the final rule. Entities with a population of less than 50,000, as well as special district governments, would have up to three years to come into compliance.
How can local governments provide feedback?
Before choosing a specific conformance standard, the DOJ requests public comment on the proposed regulations and included 67 questions throughout the draft language. The questions are included to help the public provide comments that are specific and will provide the most assistance to the DOJ. Formal comments are due by 9:00PM on Tuesday, October 3, 2023, and can be submitted via Regulations.gov.
CSAC and the National Association of Counties encourage individual counties to submit comments.