The US Department of Justice (DOJ) has announced that rule updates for the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) have been placed on an “inactive” list. These rules would have provided us with specific guidance regarding what website and software accessibility looks like under the ADA. They were set to be released in late 2017 and early 2018 according to the Unified Regulatory Agenda.
It’s difficult to know exactly what this “inactive” status means. This impacts many businesses, nonprofits and governments who have web presence. It is the first time a federal agency has ever taken such an action.
“No one knows for sure what relegation to the inactive list means as this is the first time that federal agencies have prioritized their rulemaking agendas…The placement of the Title II and Title III website accessibility regulations on the inactive list represents a significant departure from past positions of the DOJ, which had these regulations expected in each of the coming fiscal years….” -Ogletree Deakins Law Firm.
Given the current White House stance on human rights in regards to minority populations, this does not come as a surprise to most of us working in the field. But where does it leave those of us who have a web presence or create software products?
Has the Train Already Left the Station?
At WeCo, what we do to serve our clients and to grow our business, really hasn’t been changed by the delay of the ADA rule release. Why? Because rolling back human rights doesn’t really work. History supports this.
We are watching history unfold before our eyes as we learn together, as a nation, what is important to us, what is not, and who we really are. If one looks back through history, all great advances in human rights are followed by a temporary pull back. As human beings, we seem to need to “try on” our old ways of doing things before giving them up completely.
Digital accessibility has become a standard in our lives. More businesses and government departments have begun to view it as more than just legal compliance, it’s a way to reach people and gain market share. This momentum will continue as our Baby Boom population ages and the number of individuals living with disabilities grows dramatically as a result. Taking the “short view” of attempting to save money by avoiding doing the work of digital accessibility means that you will be left behind.
At WeCo, we believe, as do many others in our country, that this “inactive” designation of the ADA rules is simply a temporary delay.
How to Keep Moving Forward
In July, the US Access Board held a town hall meeting in Minneapolis. WeCo staff were in attendance and glimpsed a hint of the ADA rule delay as indicated by comments from the board membership. When asked how to proceed with digital accessibility if the rule release did not occur, the Access Board stated, “Look to WCAG 2.0.”
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) put forth by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) have long been seen as a digital accessibility measuring stick. Adopted by the US Access Board and European Union, they have also been applied to recent refresh of accessibility legislation, Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. While Section 508 applies to governments, and businesses selling digital products to government, the ADA applies to the rest of us. This includes for-profit, non-profit and mission-based organizations.
The industry has long suspected that WCAG 2.0 might be applied to the new ADA rules, and, based upon the recommendation to follow the guideline in absence of the rule release by the US Access Board, our suspicions are likely correct.
We’re Here For You
Whether your business is concerned about digital access, or you live with a disability or know someone who does, WeCo is here for you. Feel free to reach out to our Accessibility Services department at any time with your questions, thoughts and ideas.
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