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The DOJ Clarifies That Web Accessibility is Covered by the ADA

The Department of Justice (DOJ) is making it clear once and for all: the relation between ADA and web content is undeniable. With the number of online daily living activities at a steady incline, small businesses (under ADA Title lll) and state and local government agencies (under ADA Title ll) need to break down barriers that hinder online access to people with disabilities by ensuring that all digital assets are accessible.

The DOJ’s recent statement confirms that regardless of the allowed flexibility in how businesses and government institutions comply with the ADA’s general requirements, as well as non-discrimination and communication practices, they must legally adhere to these requirements as enacted by the DOJ in 1990, initially set forth in order to keep changing technologies parallel with the open access that physical locations provide.

Spotting Barriers to be Eliminated

Recognized by the DOJ, barriers that exist on websites include poor color contrast, lack of alt-text on images, missing closed captioning, inaccessible online forms, and mouse-only navigation. Barriers like these prohibit people with disabilities from accessing important corners of the web that offer information, programs, services, or products.

Businesses and government institutions can decide how they want to make their digital assets accessible, but programs, services, and products provided to the public must meet technical standards that ensure optimal accessibility. Businesses and state and local governments can refer to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and Section 508 Standards.

Prioritizing Web Accessibility

The DOJ maintains a solid position on care and concern for web accessibility practices and has been outspoken about its efforts since 1996. There has, however, been some confusion that limited the public’s knowledge and awareness of accessibility requirements. The DOJ’s recent position statement eliminates any confusion.

The DOJ has issued sample cases that demonstrate its commitment to accessible digital assets as it applies to the ADA, driving home its authority over those who do not comply with the requirements that businesses and state and local governments should be aligned with. Cases that demonstrate the strong hand that DOJ has in prioritizing accessible web content include the Louisiana Tech and Project Civic Access examples, as they apply to ADA Title ll entities (state and local governments), and the Teachers Test Prep, Inc and Rite Aid Corporation examples as applicable to ADA Title lll entities (businesses open to the public).

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