Department of Justice Issues Website Accessibility Guidelines Under ADA

On March 18, 2022, the Civil Rights Division (DOJ) of the United States Department of Justice released guidelines regarding website accessibility under the Federal Individuals with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The guidelines apply to governments and private entities whose businesses are open to the public and who maintain publicly accessible websites. The guidance emphasizes that websites inaccessible to people with disabilities are just as exclusive as barriers to entry to a physical location.

The guidelines state that ensuring website accessibility is a DOJ priority.

The guidelines summarize categories of barriers to website accessibility, including:

  • Poor color contrast,
  • Information conveyed only by color,
  • Images without text alternatives,
  • Videos without subtitles,
  • Form-filling labels that screen reader tools can’t read and
  • Mouse navigation functionality only.

The ADA requires businesses open to the public to provide “full and equal enjoyment” of goods, services, facilities, etc. to people with disabilities.

Businesses subject to the ADA must take steps to provide “appropriate communication aids and services” to communicate effectively with people with disabilities. The guidelines make it clear that a website with features inaccessible to people with disabilities may, in turn, limit accessibility to goods, services, facilities, etc. and is therefore subject to the general accessibility requirements of the ADA.

The guidelines do not provide website-specific accessibility standards; instead, it gives website operators the flexibility to ensure that goods, services and programs offered online are accessible to people with disabilities. The guidance references existing technical standards published by the Web Accessibility Initiative (WCAG 2 standards) and provides a sample list of areas of concern for website accessibility.

Financial institutions should review the DOJ’s guidelines and specific list of areas of concern to ensure that public-facing websites are accessible to people with disabilities.

About Madeline Powers

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