An Oklahoma state agency on Monday reached a settlement agreement with the Department of Justice after maintaining a mobile app that was inaccessible to people with disabilities.
Service Oklahoma, a state agency tasked with creating streamlined digital services, reached a settlement agreement with DOJ after an investigation that deemed an app that provides a digitized version of Oklahoma state IDs is in violation of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The agency is tasked with overhauling its digital services to ensure accessibility for disabled people — it’s responsibilities include soliciting public feedback and training employees in compliance with the statute.
ADA requirements hold government agencies accountable for making their websites and online services accessible to everyone, including those with disabilities. Oklahoma is just one state that is now tasked with creating accessible and equitable digital services, especially in light of emerging technologies like AI.
“When public entities make services available through mobile apps, they may not exclude people with disabilities by failing to make their technology accessible,” Kristen Clarke, assistant attorney general of the Justice Department’s civil rights division, said in the press release. “As more state and local governments turn to mobile apps for critical public services, the Justice Department will work to ensure that people with disabilities are guaranteed the ADA’s promise of equal access.”
The Oklahoma Department of Public Safety originally administered the app, called the OK Mobile ID App, which DOJ investigated after receiving this complaint. The federal agency gathered its findings and conclusions of the investigation in November, according to a letter from the DOJ to Service Oklahoma.
The investigation started in response to a complaint from an app user with vision disabilities, and according to the letter the complainant was “unable to complete necessary steps to use the mobile application, such as taking a photo of the front and back of her ID and taking a picture of herself by connecting the dots o the screen using only head and eye movements.”
The complainant originally asked the public safety department to address these concerns and then filed a complaint with the DOJ after the concerns were not addressed, according to the complaint.
Recently, other states have been addressing the need for accessibility for their public digital services. Mayland and Massachusetts have announced that agencies are charged with ensuring accessibility in digital spaces, emphasizing accessibility standards for government digital services.
Similarly, a new website in Pennsylvania that allows residents to appeal denied health plan services was developed with accessibility front of mind, according to a recent interview with leaders at the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Office of Digital Experience. According to one state evaluation, the new website rated as 98% accessible.
Other states have been called to improve accessibility for those with disabilities. Last November, the National Association of State Chief Information Officers found that only 15 states have digital accessibility coordinators who work state-wide, and the organization called for an improvement in digital service accessibility.