Long-awaited proposals to update to the Americans with Disabilities Act and introduce technical standards to improve the accessibility of state and local government websites and apps are imminent, Department of Justice officials said Tuesday during a White House webinar.
The DOJ announced plans last fall to amend Title II of the ADA, proposing that a notice of proposed rulemaking would be published in May. That notice is ready and has been sent to the Federal Register for publication, U.S. Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta announced during the webinar.
“For too many years, we’ve heard from both the disability community and regulated entities a desire to have more clarity about what standards apply,” Gupta said. “This proposed rule would propose a specific technical standard that state and local governments would have to follow to meet their existing obligations under Title II of the ADA for web and mobile app accessibility. It would help people with disabilities know what their rights are, and it would also help state and local governments understand what they have to do to comply with the ADA and ensure that their services are accessible to people with disabilities.”
The announcement comes as the ADA celebrates its 33rd anniversary — an event President Biden marked in a proclamation, stating: “The ADA has had a profound impact, but we still have much more work to do. Disabled Americans are still three times less likely to have a job; and when they do, they often earn less for doing the same work. Voting locations, transit, and public spaces are too often inaccessible. And we need to continue building a culture that not only protects disability rights but also celebrates disability pride.”
Gupta said the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted accessibility barriers that must be addressed in state and local governments.
“As so many services have gone online in recent years, particularly in the wake of the pandemic, it is now more important than ever to ensure that there are clear standards for what state and local governments must do to make their online programs, services and activities accessible to people with disabilities,” Gupta said. “This issue affects the ability of disabled people to access court websites, public library services, information about police services, public school materials, voter registration information, public hospital services, parking apps, public transit schedules, public information and so much more.”
As of Tuesday morning, the Federal Register has not published the notice, but senior Biden administration officials said during the webinar it will be available to view very soon. Once published, there will be a 60-day public comment period. The DOJ also plans to publish a fact sheet about the proposed rule at ada.gov.
The National League of Cities is among the entities that will be providing feedback on the proposals, Tacoma, Washington, Mayor Victoria Woodards said during the webinar.
“As president of the National League of Cities, I just want to thank the administration for employing cities to be a part of this rulemaking process to ensure that all cities, regardless of size or capacity, have resources and time to adequately and appropriately meet the adopted rules,” Woodards said. “We look forward to working with the DOJ and the White House on providing feedback from my city and fellow mayors on this proposal, as well as working to ensure that web and mobile government services are available to all.”