Accessibility Requirements for Government Entities: A Comprehensive Guide
As a nation, we strive to build an inclusive society where every individual, irrespective of their abilities or disabilities, has equal access to information and services. Accessibility is more than a moral obligation; it is mandated by federal and state laws that necessitate equal access for all, particularly for government entities. Aside form the moral obligation it's also just good business for all private and public entities to ensure they can serve all of their customers and constituents equally. This blog post provides a high-level overview of the the legal requirements, free tools for testing accessibility, and a brief into into how you can become compliant. To automate and offload this process we offer ongoing compliance testing for our government and non government clients.
Federal Accessibility Laws
At the federal level, the two primary laws concerning accessibility are Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Section 508 requires federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology accessible to people with disabilities. The law applies to all federal agencies when they develop, procure, maintain, or use electronic and information technology. The United States Access Board provides the Section 508 Standards to guide agencies in their commitment to accessibility (Source: Section508.gov).
Title II of the ADA extends the prohibition of discrimination on the basis of disability beyond federal agencies to include all public entities at the local (municipal) and state levels. This means that all the services, programs, or activities provided by local and state government entities must be accessible to all, including digital services (Source: ADA.gov).
DOJ Guidance for City and State Governments
On March 18th, 2022 the Department of Justice ("DOJ") issued guidance for our state and local governments who are covered by ADA Title II and businesses open to the public (entities covered by Title III) can ensure their websites are accessible and meet ADA requirements. The DOJ references ADA Guidelines.
State Accessibility Laws
While federal laws set the foundation, some states have implemented additional accessibility legislation. For instance, in California, the Unruh Civil Rights Act and the California Disabled Persons Act (CDPA) augment the federal ADA to prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability by all business establishments in the state. The scope includes web accessibility, thereby impacting public entities' online presence (Source: California Department of Justice).
Colorado Accessibility Laws
Since we are based out of Colorado we discuss Colorado specifics at the state level. Many states have similar provisions. The State of Colorado has enacted specific laws to promote accessibility:
- Colorado Revised Statutes Title 24 Government - State: Public (State) Buildings and Grounds: This Colorado law mandates accessibility in public buildings and grounds. It includes specific regulations for electronic and information technology, thus ensuring digital accessibility for state entities (Source: Colorado Revised Statutes).
Accessibility Testing Tools
Testing your public entity's digital assets for accessibility is crucial to ensure compliance with these regulations. Here are some free tools to get you started:
Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool (WAVE): This browser extension can evaluate web content for accessibility issues directly within Chrome and Firefox browsers (Source: WAVE).
AXE - Web Accessibility Testing: This open-source library and testing engine can be integrated with a variety of development environments to ensure code-level compliance (Source: Deque).
Color Contrast Analyzer: This tool helps ensure that your text and background colors meet WCAG accessibility guidelines for visual contrast (Source: WebAIM).
Steps to Becoming Compliant
The first step is identifying which standards you must comply with. Once that is done you're able to address WCAG Guidelines, team member roles and responsibilities as related to compliance, implementation strategies, training resources, the scheduling of audits, and continuous follow up. At Fruition, we build these processes into our website development process. We here to help guide you through the process of becoming and staying compliant.