Colorado’s House Bill 21-1110 (also known as HB-1110) is a landmark non-discrimination act that strengthened Colorado statues related to persons with disabilities.
Created with input from disability advocates, the bill was sponsored by Democratic state representative David Ortiz, who uses a wheelchair. While the law has broad implications, it’s especially notable for its focus on digital accessibility.
HB-1110 requires all state government agencies to meet established website accessibility standards by July 1, 2024. Of course, web accessibility can take time and effort — while the compliance deadline is nearly two years away, agencies should begin removing accessibility barriers as soon as possible.
In this article, we’ll discuss the technical standards within HB-1110 and provide a few tips for mitigating compliance risks.
What are the website accessibility requirements of Colorado HB-1110?
Over the past several years, several states including California, Illinois, and New York have passed disability rights laws that mandate digital accessibility. However, Colorado’s HB-1110 is unique in that it requires all state government agencies to meet technical standards set by the Colorado Office of Information Technology (OIT).
The OIT has identified the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 as the relevant standard. This may change over time — HB-1110 allows the OIT to adopt new standards as they become necessary.
Since WCAG 2.2 is expected for release this year, the requirements may eventually change to reflect W3C’s latest recommendations. Currently, Colorado state agency websites must meet the requirements for WCAG 2.1 Level AA conformance.
Does Colorado HB-1110 apply to private businesses?
Private entities in Colorado are not required to comply with HB-1110, although businesses that work with state agencies may want to ensure compliance to avoid missing opportunities.
However, all organizations in the United States that use digital communications — including websites and mobile apps — must make those tools accessible for people with disabilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to websites, and while the ADA does not have explicit technical standards for web accessibility, the Justice Department has identified Level AA conformance with the latest version of WCAG as a reasonable standard.
Many ADA lawsuits cite WCAG, and following WCAG can limit your compliance risks. It’s also a smart business move: Accessible websites attract more visits, perform better in search results, and provide users with a more consistent experience.
Penalties for Colorado HB-1110 Noncompliance
HB-1110 allows persons with disabilities to file complaints against state agencies. Noncompliant agencies face a fine of $3,500 for a first offense, which is payable directly to the plaintiff. Additionally, the state can investigate alleged compliance failures and institute court orders and other penalties.
Common WCAG 2.1 Level AA failures that could result in noncompliance including:
- Missing alternative text (also referred to as alt text) for images
- Missing captions or audio descriptions for videos
- Keyboard accessibility issues, which limit navigation for people who don’t use a mouse
- Low-contrast text, which can impact people with vision disabilities
- Forms with missing labels and instructions
Again, Colorado state agencies have time to correct these barriers — but the clock is ticking.
To comply with Colorado HB 21-1110, understand the principles of accessibility
WCAG is a technical document, but its requirements are reasonable: When web designers and developers follow the best practices of accessibility, they provide users with a much better experience. Website accessibility benefits everyone, including people who don’t have disabilities that affect their internet usage.
HB 21-1110 directly references the four foundational principles of WCAG, which can be extremely useful when remediating issues or planning a new website. Content must be perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. Every WCAG standard (or success criterion) supports at least one of these principles.
To test your content for HB 21-1110 compliance, keep these tips in mind:
- Automated tools (including the Bureau of Internet Accessibility’s free compliance scan) can identify many common WCAG 2.1 Level AA failures. If you’re new to accessibility, automated testing is an excellent starting point.
- To ensure compliance, audit content with a combination of automated and manual tests, which should be performed by people with disabilities. Read about our four-point hybrid testing methodology.
- Publish an accessibility statement outlining your website’s goal level of conformance and any known issues. Your accessibility statement should allow users to submit feedback.
- Building for accessibility is easier and less expensive than remediating after-the-fact. Before developing new products, make sure your team understands the principles of accessibility.
The Bureau of Internet Accessibility’s subject matter experts can help you create a long-term strategy and demonstrate compliance with HB 21-1110 and other digital accessibility laws. For guidance with a specific website, send us a message to connect with a subject matter expert.