Compliance News | April 6, 2022

Guidance on Making Websites Accessible to Disabled People

Ensuring web accessibility for people with disabilities is a priority for the Department of Justice. The department has released guidance on how to make websites accessible.

The guidance makes it clear that the department will use its enforcement authority to ensure website accessibility for people with disabilities.

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Background

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires state and local governments, as well as businesses that are open to the public, to make their websites accessible.

Examples of businesses that are open to the public include:

  • Auditoriums, theaters and sports arenas
  • Banks
  • Food and drink establishments
  • Hotels, inns and motels
  • Hospitals and medical offices
  • Private colleges and universities
  • Retail stores

State and local governments must take steps to ensure that their communications with people who have disabilities are as effective as their communications with others.

People with disabilities access electronic information online using certain tools, and a company’s or government’s online services must be able to accommodate those tools. This includes screen readers for people with a vision impairment, captions on videos for those with a hearing impairment and tools used to control navigation for those who cannot use a mouse.

The guidance

The guidance, which was published on March 18, 2022, gives these examples of barriers to website accessibility:

  • Poor contrast between colors of text and the background, which makes it difficult for people with limited vision or color blindness to read text
  • Use of color alone to give information may prevent color-blind people from understanding the information and screen readers used by vision-impaired people cannot tell the user the color of text on a screen
  • Lack of text alternatives (“alt text”) on images, which prevents people who are blind from understanding the content and purpose of images
  • No captions on videos, which may prevent people with hearing disabilities from understanding what’s being communicated
  • Inaccessible online forms that lack clear instructions, labels that screen readers can convey to their users and error indicators
  • Mouse-only navigation, which prevents people with disabilities who cannot use a mouse from being able to navigate a website

The guidance also includes eight examples of the department’s enforcement actions.

In addition, the guidance refers to numerous resources on how to ensure accessibility of website features, which we’ve included in the text box below.

Implications for businesses open to the public and jurisdictions

This guidance and the Department of Justice’s stated commitment to enforcing the ADA with respect to websites underscore how important it is for businesses open to the public and state and local governments to ensure that their websites are accessible. In addition, web accessibility is a significant area of litigation.

Covered entities should review their websites and, if they find any of the barriers listed above, address those issues promptly. When implementing a new website or adding modifications to an existing website, entities should always review accessibility standards to ensure that the website accommodates those with a disability.

Have questions about this guidance or how to improve your website’s accessibility?

We can help. 

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Resources Mentioned in the Guidance

 

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This page is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal, tax or investment advice. You are encouraged to discuss the issues raised here with your legal, tax and other advisors before determining how the issues apply to your specific situations.

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