Accessibility Act Targets Websites and Applications
By Sally Weldin, Sr. Human Resource Specialist
Published November 15, 2022
This past September, Senator Tammy Duckworth (Illinois) and Representative John P. Sarbanes (Maryland) introduced the Websites and Software Applications Accessibility Act (S. 4998) and (H.R. 9021), legislation to assist individuals with disabilities accessing website and software applications.
The Act would clarify that entities covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) must maintain accessible websites and software applications that do not exclude, or otherwise discriminate, against individuals with disabilities. The Act would establish an enforceable accessibility standard and establish a technical assistance center and advisory committee to provide advice and guidance on developing and maintaining accessible websites and software applications.
The U.S. Department of Justice has always opined that the ADA covers websites and technologies that are integral to accessing a business or agency and its services. However, no accessibility regulations cover these technologies currently. This legislation does not amend the ADA, but rather affirms that the ADA extends to and requires websites and applications be accessible and useable by individuals with disabilities. This requirement applies whether the business has a physical location or exists solely online.
Once passed, the legislation would require that the Department of Justice and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in a joint effort establish a clear and enforceable uniform national framework for website and software application accessibility. It would reaffirm that existing disability rights legislation covers websites and software applications.
Reliance on websites and software applications for communication, information, services, educational purposes, commerce, and convenience has become more prevalent, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. Website and application accessibility would enable individuals with disabilities to access the same information, interact, communicate, and be understood as effectively as individuals without disabilities, and be afforded privacy and ease of website and app use.
The Act is supported by several disability and civil rights organizations. HR Source will post further updates on the Act as it becomes available.