On May 24, 2023, New York State updated its Accessibility of Information Communication Technology policy. The policy, NYS-P08-005, requires that state agencies and their contractors follow Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) version 2.0.
If your organization operates in New York, the state’s web accessibility policy may apply to you — and even if that’s not the case, you still have a responsibility to provide accessible digital content under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Here’s what you should know.
New York’s web accessibility policy applies to government agencies and contractors
Issued by the New York State (NYS) Office of Information Technology Services, the web accessibility policy is based on Revised Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
Section 508 requires federal agencies to conform with the Level A/AA success criteria of WCAG 2.0. Websites that conform with WCAG Level AA are generally considered accessible for most users with disabilities. Learn about the differences between WCAG conformance levels.
New York’s policy is similar: It requires that electronic content provided by a state agency, contractor, subcontractor, vendor, or consultant to be conformant with the Level A/AA criteria in WCAG 2.0.
Other important features of the NYS Accessibility of Information Communication Technology policy:
- The policy contains an exception for older electronic content. Any Information Communication Technology (ICT) that has been procured, maintained, or used on or before January 18, 2018 does not need to be modified to conform with the policy — provided that the ICT has not been altered since that date.
- The policy also includes an exemption for situations where conformance would impose an “undue burden or result in a fundamental alteration in the nature" of the ICT.
- New York State requires WCAG 2.0 Level AA conformance as of May 24, 2023.
Ultimately, the accessibility policy simply extends the requirements of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act to New York agencies and their contractors.
The changes were lauded by disability advocates, who note that many state websites have failed to provide accessible content — by establishing clear technical requirements, advocates hope that New York agencies will make necessary improvements.
Private businesses must comply with Title III of the ADA
New York’s accessibility policy is specific to public-sector organizations. However, private businesses must comply with Title III of the ADA, which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in “places of public accommodation.”
The Department of Justice (DOJ) has confirmed that websites, mobile apps, and other digital resources qualify as “places of public accommodation.” While the ADA doesn’t include technical requirements, the DOJ recommends testing content against WCAG to improve compliance.
For businesses that operate in New York, that’s especially important: New York is the top-filing state for web accessibility claims. In 2022, at least 1,660 web accessibility lawsuits were filed in the Empire State under the ADA.
WCAG provides essential guidance for improving web accessibility
To ensure digital compliance, all organizations — including public, private, and non-profit agencies — must make a commitment to accessibility.
Testing content against WCAG can help you find and fix the barriers that affect users with disabilities. That includes common issues that impact real-life users:
- Low-contrast text, which impacts users with low vision, color vision deficiencies, and other vision impairments.
- Missing captions and transcripts for multimedia, which impacts users with hearing and vision disabilities.
- Missing form labels and instructions, which may prevent some users from completing important processes.
- Content that isn’t responsive, which may be unreadable on certain types of screens or when using assistive technology.
- Inaccessible web documents, including PDFs, which prevent some users from finding important information.
By considering accessibility when building your content, you can create a long-term strategy for compliance. It’s also important to consider the business benefits of accessible design: Inclusive content can increase engagement, improve search engine optimization (SEO), and provide all users with a better experience.
To see how your website stacks up against the latest version of WCAG, get started with a free automated analysis. To learn more about digital compliance, download our free eBook: The Essential Guide to ADA Compliance for Websites.