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ADA Title II: Website Accessibility for Public Entities

Illustration of a computer with web accessibility symbols around it

Ensuring web accessibility is more critical than ever, especially for public entities. The ADA Title II regulations have recently been updated, and these changes are set to have a significant impact on how state and local governments provide their services online. In this blog post, we’ll explore the latest ADA Title II updates, who is affected, compliance deadlines, exemptions, consequences of non-compliance, and how public entities can ensure their web content meets the new standards.

When Was ADA Title II Originally Passed?

ADA Title II, part of the Americans with Disabilities Act, was originally passed on July 26, 1990. This regulation mandates that state and local governments (referred to as “public entities”) must provide equal access to their programs, services, and activities for individuals with disabilities. The most recent updates to ADA Title II were made in April 2024, significantly advancing the original regulations by providing more specific guidelines and requirements for web and mobile app accessibility.

Comparing Old vs. New Regulations

The original ADA Title II regulations were broad, requiring public entities to ensure their services were accessible to people with disabilities. However, they lacked specific guidance on web accessibility. The 2024 revisions now require public organizations to guarantee that their websites and mobile applications adhere to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 Level AA, thus addressing the previously existing gap. This change aims to ensure that all users, regardless of ability, can access public services online.

What are the Updated ADA Title II Regulations?

The new ADA Title II rule clarifies that state and local governments must make their websites and mobile apps accessible to provide equal access to public services. This includes adhering to the WCAG 2.1 Level AA success criteria and conformance requirements.

Understanding WCAG

The WCAG is a set of guidelines developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) to ensure web content is accessible to all users. The WCAG 2.1 Level AA criteria cover a range of requirements, from ensuring that web content is perceivable, operable, and understandable to making it robust enough to work with various assistive technologies. By adhering to these guidelines, public entities can provide a more inclusive online experience for all users.

Who is Affected by the Updated ADA Title II Ruling?

The updated ADA Title II regulations primarily affect state and local governments, which the Department of Justice (DOJ) refers to as “public entities.” This includes a wide range of government programs, activities, and services. Some examples of public entities that may be affected by this new ruling include:

  • Government offices at the state and local levels that offer benefits and social services, such as food assistance, health insurance, or employment services.
  • Public schools, community colleges, and public universities
  • State and local police departments
  • State and local courts
  • State and local elections offices
  • Public hospitals and public healthcare clinics
  • Public parks and recreation programs
  • Public libraries
  • Public transit agencies

These entities must now ensure their web content and mobile apps are accessible to individuals with disabilities.

Compliance Deadlines for the Updated ADA Title II Regulations

The DOJ has set staggered compliance dates for public entities based on their population size:

  • Public entities with a total population of 50,000 or more must comply with WCAG 2.1 Level AA success criteria within two years of the final rule’s publication date, or by April 2026.
  • Public entities with a total population of less than 50,000 must comply within three years, or by April 2027.
  • All special district governments also have three years to comply, or by April 2027.

This phased approach allows larger entities, which may have more resources, to lead the way in compliance, while smaller entities are given additional time to meet the requirements.

Who is Exempt from the Updated ADA Title II Regulations, if Anyone?

All public entities are required to comply with these new regulations, regardless of size or type. However, the DOJ has outlined a few specific web content exceptions:

  • Archived web content
  • Pre-existing conventional electronic documents, unless used to apply for, gain access to, or participate in the public entity’s services, programs, or activities
  • Content uploaded by a third party, except when the third party is posting due to a contractual, licensing, or other agreement with the public entity
  • Conventional electronic documents that are about a specific individual, their property, or their account and that are password-protected or otherwise secured
  • Preexisting social media posts

These exceptions ensure that while public entities must make most of their content accessible, certain types of content are not required to meet the technical standards.

Consequences for Not Complying with ADA Title II Regulations

Although the DOJ does not have a specific enforcement strategy, failing to comply with these regulations can open public entities to lawsuits and other legal actions. Non-compliance could lead to complaints filed with the DOJ, which can result in investigations and potential legal proceedings. Ensuring compliance not only helps avoid legal issues but also demonstrates a commitment to providing equal access to all users.

How Can Government Services and Public Entities Make Their Web Content Compliant?

Government services and public entities must work to ensure their website content meets WCAG 2.1 Level AA requirements. This can be a complex task, involving a thorough review and potentially extensive modifications to existing content and systems. Given the complexity of web accessibility standards and the volume of content that may need to be reviewed, it can be challenging to handle this in-house. 

To effectively manage this process, public entities may benefit from hiring a trusted web accessibility expert who can guide them through the necessary steps. These experts can conduct accessibility audits, recommend specific changes, and provide ongoing support to ensure compliance.

Trust Certified Web Accessibility Experts

At Bytes.co, we understand the importance of web accessibility and the challenges that come with ensuring compliance. Our team of certified web accessibility specialists is equipped to help public entities navigate the complexities of the new ADA Title II regulations. We offer comprehensive web accessibility services, including audits, remediation, ongoing maintenance, and testing, to ensure your website and mobile apps meet the latest standards. Partner with us to make your digital presence accessible to everyone.

Are You a Public Entity in Need of Web Accessibility Services?

By adhering to the updated ADA Title II regulations, public entities can provide equal access to their services, demonstrating their commitment to inclusivity and compliance with federal standards. Contact Bytes.co today to learn how we can help you achieve and maintain web accessibility compliance.

Shea Lincourt

Shea Lincourt

Shea has lived in Vermont her entire life. She grew up in southern Vermont and later moved to Burlington to pursue a degree in marketing at the University of Vermont. Upon graduating cum laude, Shea started her marketing career as a digital marketing intern at Bytes.co before becoming our digital marketing analyst.

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