New DOJ Rule Establishes Specific Requirements for Website and Mobile App Accessibility

In general, the ADA requires that local governments make their services and programs reasonably accessible to people with disabilities. To that end, the United States Department of Justice has issued a final rule, taking effect on June 24, 2024, that requires state and local government websites and mobile apps to conform to a well-known set of technical standards called the “Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 Level AA.” These standards contain various criteria for measuring the accessibility of web content to persons with disabilities. Notably, the DOJ rule also applies to entities who contract with public bodies to provide public services. Further, public bodies who engage third parties to provide web or app content must ensure that the content provided by the third party conforms with the WCAG standards.

The rule also identifies several exceptions for certain web or app content that need not comply with the WCAG standards. For example, archived content, electronic documents that are about a specific individual, their property, or their account and that are password protected, and preexisting social media posts, all do not need to conform with the WCAG standards. With that said, public entities must still provide reasonable modifications to people with disabilities. Accordingly, if a person with a disability requested access to archived content, the public entity would need to provide the requestor with an accessible copy of the content.

The rule also provides for some flexibility, including allowing public bodies to not comply with the WCAG standards if such compliance would cause undue financial and administrative burdens. The rule also permits public bodies to not conform with the WCAG standards if the public body can demonstrate equivalent or greater accessibility to content without conforming to the WCAG standards.

Finally, public bodies will have either two or three years to comply with the rule based on their size. For public bodies with more than 50,000 people, they must comply with the rule by June 24, 2026. For public bodies with less than 50,000 people, they must comply with the rule by June 24, 2027.

This new rule is important because it places an affirmative obligation on school districts and other public entities with respect to the accessibility of the content posted on their websites and apps. Contact any attorney in HLERK’s Corporate Practice Group with any questions on this new rule.

Source: Fact Sheet: New Rule on the Accessibility of Web Content and Mobile Apps Provided by State and Local Governments | ADA.gov