ADA Compliance for Private Sector Websites – Current Guidance

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Our private sector clients often ask us about what is the target set of requirements they should aim for with respect to conforming to the American’s with Disabilities Act.  Specifically the Title III, public accommodations, requirements of that act.  Short version, we recommend you conform to WCAG 2.0 A and AA requirements.

As with all things web and ADA related it is important to note that there are no specific published technical requirements that define how the ADA is applied to the Internet. This introduces a level of risk to any organization – public or private – since the target compliance requirements may not conform to final U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) issued policy.  However, a variety of public and private sector organizations have been sued for the inaccessibility of their websites under the ADA making conformance of the ADA a priority.  So what’s a site to do?

The closest thing to current official policy is a DoJ Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) relating to Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability: Accessibility of Web Information and Services of State and Local Government Entities and Public Accommodations.  This ANPRM was published about two and a half years ago and indicates that the DoJ sees the WCAG A and AA requirements as the logical implementation requirements for the web-based portion of services for organizations covered under the ADA. The U.S. Access Board’s recent ANPRM on the Section 508 Refresh provides a similar blanket mandate for the use of WCAG A and AA requirements as the baseline for the updated Section 508 requirements.  In addition, many recently settled web accessibility cases relating to the ADA have been settled by requiring the defendant organization to conform to either A or AA requirements, Section 508, or to a mix of both.

Therefore, while SSB stresses that no specific technical standards for the ADA compliance of web sites exist, SSB is reasonably confident in selecting the WCAG 2.0 A and AA requirements as the likely ADA technical standards.  The WCAG 2.0 A and AA requirements are also the default standards SSB sees outside of the U.S. in other web accessibility legislation, regulation and standards – so conformance with them is likely to serve many organizations well.

Finally, it is worth noting that the DoJ is currently in a rulemaking process for Title III of the ADA, which has to do with public accommodations. Public accommodations are broadly defined, and are likely to include a wide swath of the private sector.  The Department of Justice has issued guidance that a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) will be issued in December 2013 to further develop the requirements for Title III of the ADA. These regulations will eventually amend 28 CFR 36. The Regulation Identifier Number (RIN) is 1190-AA61 and more information on RIN 1190-AA61 can be found on reginfo.gov.

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