Van Hollen, Duckworth and Durbin call on DOJ to ensure government websites are ADA compliant

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June 10, 2022

Today, U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) joined Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) , to urge the US Department of Justice (DOJ) to provide better guidance and regulations to help state and local governments better comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessibility requirements on their websites, mobile applications and other forms of technology. In a letter sent to Attorney General Merrick Garland, the senators wrote:

“For people with disabilities, the accessibility of websites and other forms of [technology] are necessities, not luxuries or conveniences, that promote independence, economic self-reliance, and active and meaningful participation in civic life. Although the Department has made it clear that the ADA applies to these digital spaces, the lack of specific requirements or technical compliance standards incorporated into the regulations has led to a widespread lack of meaningful digital accessibility for people. disabilities. It is high time for the Ministry to issue strong clarifications and remedy this exclusion. status quo.”

Alongside Van Hollen, Duckworth and Durbin, U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Kirsten Gillibrand (DN.Y.), Maggie Hassan (DN.H.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) signed today’s letter to the attorney general.

In their letter, the senators called on the DOJ to:

  1. Promulgate updated regulations including clear and enforceable accessibility and usability standards that align with current requirements under Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act,
  2. Clarify that applicable regulations apply to websites, online systems, mobile applications and other forms of information and communication technology (ICT), whether a covered entity also owns or operates a location physical offering the same or similar goods, services or information. This will ensure uniform and consistent implementation of the ADA across the country,
  3. Update existing guidelines regarding the accessibility of websites, online systems, mobile applications and other forms of ICT, and
  4. Pursue additional agreements emphasizing website accessibility, as well as online systems, mobile applications and other ICTs.

The full text of the letter is available here and below.

Dear Attorney General Garland:

We are writing to express our support for the recent Web Accessibility Guidelines and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) issued by the Department of Justice (DOJ or the Department). While this is a welcome first step, we urge the DOJ to quickly pursue additional regulatory and sub-regulatory initiatives under Titles II and III of the ADA to ensure that state governments and premises and public accommodation purchase, design, maintain and use websites, mobile applications, systems and other forms of information and communication technology (ICT) that are accessible and usable by as many people with disabilities as possible .

The Department has long recognized that, as former Senior Assistant Deputy Attorney General for Civil Rights Samuel Bagenstos testified before the House Committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution in 2010, “the access to information and electronic technologies is increasingly becoming the gateway to civil rights”. problem for people with disabilities. We agree with the Department’s assessment. Businesses, employers, and federal, state, and local governments increasingly depend on ICT to deliver goods and services. For people with disabilities, accessibility to websites and other forms of accessible ICT are necessities – not luxuries or conveniences – that promote independence, economic self-sufficiency and active and meaningful participation in life. civic.

Although the Department has made it clear that the ADA applies to these digital spaces, the lack of specific requirements or technical compliance standards incorporated into the regulations has led to a widespread lack of meaningful digital accessibility for people. disabilities. It is high time for the Ministry to issue strong clarifications and remedy this exclusion. status quo. In fact, in 2010, the Department issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) that explicitly recognized the need for greater clarity in ADA regulations. However, a proposed rule was never published, despite rigorous engagement by the disability community.

ANPRM was retired entirely in 2017 by the Trump administration, and the newly released guidelines are the first action on the Biden administration’s DOJ views on ICT. Therefore, we urge the Department to work diligently to ensure the accessibility of websites, online systems, mobile applications and other forms of ICT for people with disabilities by taking the following steps:

(1) Promulgate updated regulations implementing ADA Titles II and III that include clear and enforceable accessibility and usability standards that align with the current requirements of Section 508 of the Act on rehabilitation, including the incorporation by reference of the internationally accepted Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). ) 2.1 Levels A and AA;

(2) Clarify that the regulations implementing Title III of the ADA apply to websites, online systems, mobile applications, and other forms of ICT, whether a covered entity also owns or operates a location physical offering the same or similar goods, services or services. information. This will ensure uniform and consistent implementation of the ADA across the country;

(3) Update existing sub-regulatory guidelines regarding the accessibility of websites, online systems, mobile applications and other forms of ICT, such as technical assistance guidelines on “accessibility of state and local government websites to people with disabilities,” which were last updated in 2003; and

(4) Pursue additional targeted settlement agreements through the Civic Access project, with an emphasis on website accessibility, as well as online systems, mobile applications and other ICTs, which may be used not only to advance accessibility under the specific parts of the regulations, but also to provide clear policy. guidance for all covered entities.

Regulatory action by the DOJ in this area is essential: there is a virtual flood of new and emerging technologies entering the market and being integrated into our daily lives. If these technologies are inaccessible, they will leave behind many people with disabilities. In accordance with President Biden’s Executive Orders 13895 mission, “To promote racial equity and support for underserved communities through the federal government, and 14035, “Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility in the Federal Workforce,“The Department should take the above actions to demonstrate its continued commitment to the goals of the ADA and the promotion of equity for people with disabilities.

We appreciate your attention to this important issue and look forward to working with you in our common goal of achieving equity and inclusion for all Americans.

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