Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Sets New Expectations for Inclusive Digital Services

As part of its ongoing commitment to ensure the digital inclusion of people with disabilities, the U.S. Attorney General has recently updated the accessibility requirements for state and local governments under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The rule specifies that information and services provided online by public entities must meet web accessibility standards and be compatible with assistive technologies. The rule clarifies how the ADA applies to digital assets and supports the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) vision of more accessible and inclusive civic participation.

If you’re interested to learn more about all of the sections of the ADA and what’s included, check out our blog post, “What are ADA Compliance Requirements?

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What to Know About Title II of ADA

Learn more details about the update below. 

Why the Update to Title II was Necessary

In the prior version of ADA Title II, it was unclear whether the rules applied to digital content or not. The guidelines implied rather than explicitly defined specific digital accessibility requirements. Keep in mind that regulations were initially issued in 1991, which was before the World Wide Web was available to the broader public. Since that time, there have been updates and adjustments to the regulations, but until now, the digital accessibility needs were not made clear.

Fast forward to today, and individuals’ interaction with web and mobile applications has become a daily occurrence. There has been even more online interconnection in recent years with rises in remote learning and work. Digital healthcare, utility billing, registration, and information access has continued to be a normal and almost essential part of life. This is why all users, including those with disabilities, should have equal access to these online services. However, due to inconsistent interpretation and implementations by state and local governments, many individuals still find difficulty with access.

In addition, both public entities and public business are surrounded with lawsuits and demand letters around non-compliance with the ADA due to the inaccessibility of digital content. Due to the growing legal space and fast-paced digital world, many organizations have sought clarification and standards from the federal government. This was likely an influence on why the updates have now come through. The goal of the update is to now establish a consistent guideline for providing accessible digital services in the public sector not just on the web but for mobile apps as well.

When Does Title II of ADA Begin?

The effective date of Title II is June 24, 2024. However, this date does not set the expectation of full compliance by all public entities by that date. Public entities with a total population of 50,000 or more, other than special district exclusions, must be in full compliance by April 24, 2026. An extra year has been extended to public entities with a population of less than 50,000 and/or special district government. They must be in full compliance by April 26, 2027.

That does not mean entities can push the efforts off for later. Budgets and scope need to be determined to account for accessibility requirements. If site and application owners have not been considering these efforts in their budgets, planning is needed now.

Furthermore, successful accessibility is an ongoing process. It does not end with one successful remediation. Strategies for best practices should be clear and maintained for all new content. On a regularly-scheduled basis, digital assets should be assessed and remediated in compliance with most current applicable laws and guidelines.

Who Needs to Comply with the New Law?

The June 24, 2024 ADA updates are scoped only to Title II, which applies specifically to all state and local governments, agencies, services, and organizations.

  • State and Local Government
  • Public Schools: Pre-Schools, Elementary Schools, and High Schools
  • Community Colleges and Public Universities
  • Public Libraries
  • State and Local Courts

Compliance to Title II will extend far beyond these specific entities. Many digital solutions from the above entities rely on third-party tools and digital platforms to provide online services, such as utility monitoring and bill payment. These public entities will be mandated to procure products and services exclusively from businesses that conform to Title II expectations. With the updates to the law, now, these third-party tools and platforms also need to meet the requirements. Companies that develop common digital solutions for state and local government web sites and applications, such as CMS (content management system) platforms, payment processors, cookie policies, and advanced search, will also need to satisfy Title II expectations for accessibility.

Furthermore, even though Title III of ADA was not updated, the implications of Title II may influence the legal space for places of public accommodation. Though not explicitly stated, we could see more strength in lawsuit arguments and the potential for similar changes to Title III in the future. Remember that ADA is a very broad civil rights law that extends to employment, architectural design, transportation, and other services offering public accommodation.

What is Considered Compliance to Title II of ADA?

The DOJ’s new rule offers specific technical clarity by stating WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) 2.1 A and AA conformance requirements. The W3C, an international standards organization for the World Wide Web, developed WCAG 2.1 to be a pragmatic standard to measure the minimal requirements for accessible digital experiences. These standards were written to be agnostic to technology so it can be applied to other digital solutions, like mobile applications and documents, including PDFs.

Do note that the compliance requirements also list exceptions, including archived content that is not currently used, pre-existing conventional electronic documents, content posted by third parties under certain circumstances, individualized documents that are password-protected, and pre-existing social media posts. However, new versions of documents and social media posts are not exceptions, so they will require continued accessibility planning and remediation efforts.

Click here for a website accessibility and ADA compliance audit

How to Navigate These New Requirements

Navigating the new digital accessibility requirements may be confusing – but it doesn’t have to be. Americaneagle.com’s web accessibility experts are here to help you understand and implement the right processes to ensure your website is inclusive for all.

Ongoing Testing and Due Diligence

It is important to test and understand the pain points of your digital properties and content. Sites are far from static and technology is constantly changing. This is why it is important to determine an ongoing due diligence plan with consistent testing. We recommend a hybrid approach to accessibility testing, with both human and automated audits. Automated tools on their own are not enough, even the DOJ noted this in their recommendations.

Human testing for massive sites and large amounts of repeated content may not always be a realistic expectation. Manually testing unique pages, layouts, and content can provide a broad sense of potential concerns without needing to test every page of a site or app. Then automation can help review the remaining pages to further affirm confidence levels in accessibility.

Americaneagle.com is Capable to Not Just Test but Remediate Your Issues

Testing alone is not going to solve the pain points of end-users, which is why remediation and training are essential to creating accessible experiences. Our dedicated accessibility practice at Americaneagle.com supports clients by not only testing, but also remediating and advising to prevent issues in the first place. All our specialists are knowledge experts and certified testers, such as CPWA from IAAP, and Section 508 Trusted Testers. Our development teams across an expansive list of the most popular platforms and technologies can help you resolve and remediate the concerns of your digital properties today.

We would like to learn more about you and your business’s digital solutions and web accessibility goals. Please connect with us in any way you prefer:

About Author

Nick Goodrum, Director of Accessibility
Nick Goodrum has been working in the front-end development world for well over a decade and a half. During the journey of improving his code with modern techniques and best practices, he found a deep passion for usability and accessibility. At Americaneagle.com, which is a full-service digital agency, he grew into the position of Director of Front-End Development and then shifted to his main focus as Director of Accessibility. As a Certified Professional in Web Accessibility, Nick has been educating technical communities and empowering clients including those in Fortune 500 by sharing his knowledge of the inner workings of the web mixed with the insights of accessibility needs. He aims to help make accessibility a normality rather than an afterthought to developers, content authors, marketing, site owners, and beyond.

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