As website accessibility gains more awareness in the public eye, it can be tricky to make sense of all the changes and keep up with what’s causing the rapid rise in accessibility lawsuits.
Are there different laws for different websites? Are there different laws for federal government websites? What about state and local government websites — do they have to be accessible?
Here’s what to consider to answer that last question.
Does Section 508 apply to state and local government websites?
The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 was amended in 1998 to include Section 508, which requires federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology (EIT) accessible to people with disabilities, including both employees and members of the public. Section 508 standards were recently revised and as of January 1, 2018, federal agencies and contractors had to meet the revised standards — including the adoption of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 A/AA as the official accessibility requirements.
But, Section 508 applies to the federal government — not state and local government — and their agencies and contractors working on their behalf. So, while the shortest answer to the question of whether Section 508 applies to state and local government is “no,” it might be more like “no, but….”
Some states have elected to adopt Section 508 website accessibility standards into their own laws, effectively trickling down the federal requirements to the state level. Other states have identified their own regulations around web accessibility, some mirrored off Section 508 standards and some based on other standards.
Here is a list of some state accessibility policies, but please note it is not a complete list of all the commitments to accessibility some states have made.
Does the ADA apply to state and local government websites?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in places of public accommodation and by state and local governments.
- Title II of the ADA applies to state and local government entities, prohibiting discrimination on the basis of disability in access to the services, programs, and activities they offer.
- Title III of the ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in places of public accommodation.
If information or tools on a state or local government’s website are available to the public but are not available to some people with disabilities because they aren’t accessible, that is in violation of the rights afforded by the ADA.
Increasingly, the consensus is that the ADA applies to websites. This point was well-stated in the opinion’s summary in recent advancements in the Domino’s pizza accessibility case: “[T]he panel stated that the ADA applies to the services of a public accommodation, not services in a place of public accommodation.”
State and local government accessibility audits
Communities expect their state and local governments to value and prioritize accessibility. If you have received a demand letter or complaint, or you are proactively taking steps toward achieving accessibility compliance, we are ready to help.
We offer state and local government accessibility audits and ongoing support. Talk to us about your options — your consultation is confidential and has no obligation whatsoever. Or, get started with a free website accessibility scan.