President Trump Signs the 21st Century IDEA Act

December 28, 2018

A development in accessibility legislation, the 21st Century Integrated Digital Experiences Act, was presented to President Trump on December 13 and signed into law on December 20, 2018, and should change web accessibility for users and content creators of government websites. The 21st Century IDEA Act was passed by the Senate earlier this month without amendment by unanimous consent. Legislation like this bill hopefully will take a more astringent approach to enforcing digital accessibility standards.

Web accessibility is critical to ensuring that all members of society have equal access to information and services offered, including the 25% of American adults who have some form of disability (Read: Common Web Accessibility Myths). The 21st Century IDEA Act will give agencies 180 days before requiring that all new websites and digital services like web-based forms, apps, and beyond meet eight specific standards listed below:

  • Websites and information technology, including computer hardware, software and documentation must be accessible to individuals with disabilities
    in accordance with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
  • Consistent appearance.
  • Cannot overlap with or duplicate any legacy websites and, if applicable, ensure that legacy websites are regularly reviewed, eliminated, and consolidated.
  • Must have a search function that allows users to easily search content intended for public use.
  • Must be provided through an industry standard secure connection.
  • Websites must be designed around user needs with data-driven analysis influencing management and development decisions, using qualitative and quantitative data to determine user goals, needs, and behaviors, and continually test the website, web-based form, web-based application, or digital service to ensure that user needs are addressed.
  • Provide users of the new or redesigned website, web-based form, web-based application, or digital service with the option for a more customized digital experience that allows users to complete digital transactions in an efficient and accurate manner.
  • Fully functional and usable on common mobile devices.

Additionally, existing federal websites have a year to adhere to these standards. The head of the agency that maintains the website or digital services must submit a report to Congress and made available to the public that includes:

  • A list of the websites and digital services maintained by the executive agency that are most viewed or utilized by the public or are otherwise important for public engagement;
  • From among the websites and digital services listed under subparagraph (A), a prioritization of websites and digital services that require modernization to meet the requirements under subsection (a).
  • An estimation of the cost and schedule of modernizing the websites and digital services prioritized under subparagraph (B).

Failure to comply with the IDEA Act may result in complaints alleging discrimination, which could lead then to legal action. Federal government websites can receive an accessibility audit or request a free WCAG 2.1 Summary Scan here. As always, you can contact us for a free 30-minute consultation.


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