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Key Colorado Web Accessibility Law Gets Deadline Extension

Jun 24, 2024

Colorado’s HB 21-1110 has received a grace period for enforcement — but state government offices are still required to treat digital accessibility as a priority. 

The law requires state government agencies to make their websites, mobile apps, and other digital resources accessible for people with disabilities. All state agencies must meet the technical standards defined by the Colorado Office of Information Technology (OIT). 

The OIT has recognized the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) version 2.1 Level AA as the appropriate standards for compliance. However, the state of Colorado has adjusted the deadline for compliance. 

Originally, the bill was scheduled to take effect on July 1, 2024. That deadline has been extended to July 1, 2025, provided that state agencies and public entities demonstrate “good faith efforts" towards compliance.

Colorado's HB 21-1110 is landmark legislation for digital accessibility

The law was introduced in 2021 by Colorado Representative David Ortiz, who uses a wheelchair. Ortiz worked with advocates from organizations including the National Federation of the Blind and the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition to craft the legislation. 

Several features of the bill set it apart from other U.S. disability non-discrimination laws: 

  • HB-1110 is specifically geared towards digital access. It recognizes that non-accessible communications could prevent people from enjoying equal access to the services, programs, or activities of public entities and state agencies.
  • It empowers the Colorado OIT to create new accessibility standards on an as-needed basis. 
  • It establishes strong penalties for noncompliance. Persons with disabilities may file complaints against state agencies; those agencies face fines of $3,500 for first-time violations, which are payable directly to the plaintiffs.
  • Agencies must submit accessibility plans to the OIT. The state of Colorado may investigate compliance failures and institute court orders to force compliance.

Notably, HB 21-1110 does not apply to private businesses. However, it was the first state law to apply to all government web content (including local agencies) while establishing strict penalties for noncompliance.

New ADA standards overlap with the requirements of HB 21-1110

It’s worth noting that the extension to HB 21-1110’s deadline does not mean that state agencies can wait another year before making changes. 

In the United States, federal law requires that digital content created or commissioned by governmental entities must be designed to be accessible for users with disabilities. Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to state and local government entities, and this year, the Justice Department established WCAG 2.1 Level AA as the de facto requirements for Title II compliance. That’s the same set of standards chosen by Colorado’s OIT.

In other words, HB 21-1110 is in line with federal law — it doesn’t require anything “extra" from Colorado state agencies, though it establishes penalties and requirements for reporting.

Related: What Colorado Businesses Should Know About HB 21-1110 Compliance

Public entities in Colorado should begin planning for 2025

To avoid penalties under HB 21-1110, state and local agencies must be able to show that they’re making good-faith efforts to meet WCAG 2.1 Level AA. That means addressing some of the common accessibility barriers that impact users with disabilities: 

WCAG addresses these issues along with dozens of other barriers. The guidelines provide a simple roadmap for improving content — and delivering a better experience for all users, regardless of their abilities or preferences. 

Put simply, website owners should not wait for legislation or litigation to adopt the best practices of inclusive design.

The Bureau of Internet Accessibility and AudioEye provide expert compliance audits, remediation guidance, and free resources to improve digital accessibility. To evaluate your website against WCAG Level A/AA checkpoints, start with our free compliance summary

If you’re ready to build a strategy for compliance with HB 21-1110, the ADA, and other digital accessibility laws, send us a message to connect with an expert. 

Use our free Website Accessibility Checker to scan your site for ADA and WCAG compliance.

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