Compliance » New Regulations Ensure Digital Accessibility

New Regulations Ensure Digital Accessibility

May 9, 2024

New Regulations Ensure Digital Accessibility

According to an article by Rob Duston of Saul Ewing LLP, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) recently finalized digital accessibility regulations on the Accessibility of Web Information and Services for State and Local Government Entities, published in the Federal Register on April 24, 2024. These regulations, under 28 C.F.R part 35, closely resemble the initially proposed rules. Their impact extends significantly to public entities, including all public colleges and universities.

The regulations will affect recipients of federal financial assistance, as they must align with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Other federal agencies, like the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services, will need to adjust their regulations accordingly. This will subsequently influence private colleges, healthcare providers, and entities covered by Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act.

The regulations mandate compliance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 Level AA standards for all web content and mobile apps provided or made available by public entities. Certain exceptions exist, including archived web content, preexisting conventional electronic documents, and third-party content beyond the entity’s control.

According to the article, the DOJ has set compliance deadlines based on entity population size, with larger entities required to comply by June 24, 2026, and smaller ones by June 24, 2027. Compliance necessitates significant organizational involvement, including IT, legal, finance, procurement, compliance, disability services, and HR.

Despite the potential for litigation, the DOJ has provided defenses for minimal impact noncompliance, though achieving this defense is rare. Thus, entities must prioritize establishing processes for regular accessibility checks and prompt issue resolution to mitigate legal risks.

Adherence to these digital accessibility regulations demands comprehensive engagement and integration across all levels of operation. With deadlines looming, affected entities must swiftly mobilize to ensure compliance.

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