As many government services shift online, the Department of Justice (DoJ) is looking to improve web and mobile applications access for people with disabilities – particularly at the state and local government level – in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
The DoJ sent to the Federal Register for publication a notice of proposed rulemaking under Title II of the ADA in an effort to clarify how government agencies can meet their existing ADA obligations.
“This marks the first time in the history of the Americans with Disabilities Act that the Justice Department has issued a proposed rule on website accessibility,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a press release. “This proposed rule seeks to ensure that Americans with disabilities have equal access to the websites and apps that connect them to essential services provided by state and local governments.”
The DoJ explained how this proposed rule is critical to ensure people with disabilities can access these technologies, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic shifted many essential services and programs online.
For example, DoJ said many people rely on web and mobile apps to access services such as employment resources, voting information, health and emergency services, parking, and transit schedules or maps.
“This proposed rule, which is the culmination of years of work and collaboration, is a historic moment for the Justice Department,” said Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta. “It will help enshrine the right of Americans with disabilities to access critical information needed to lead safe, productive, and prosperous lives.”
Once the proposed rule is published, DoJ said the public will have 60 days to submit their comments. The agency said it is “eager to hear from the public” on the proposed rule and get input from relevant stakeholders such as state and local governments.
The proposed rule aligns with the 21st Century Integrated Digital Experience Act (IDEA Act) approved by Congress in late 2018, which mandated that Federal websites and digital services be accessible to people with disabilities, have a consistent appearance, and be mobile-friendly.
“This proposed rule marks a significant milestone in the Justice Department’s efforts to advance accessibility in the digital sphere,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the DoJ’s Civil Rights Division. “This groundbreaking moment makes clear our commitment to eradicating the barriers faced by people with disabilities and affording equal access to online government programs and services that people around the country depend on every day. We will continue to use every tool available to ensure that people with disabilities are provided full access to the digital town square.”