Colorado officials said their state will become the first in the country to require that all state and local government websites meet a set of yet-to-be-determined accessibility standards.
The requirement, signed into law by Gov. Jared Polis last month, directs each state agency to submit a plan to make their websites accessible within the next 12 months, after which the state’s IT office will work with them to ensure they’re compliant with the new standards. The state’s chief information officer, currently Tony Neal-Graves, will be tasked with consulting people with disabilities and agency heads to figure out what the state’s accessibility standards should look like. International standards, like those developed by the World Wide Web Consortium will be used as guidelines, according to the law.
“We’ve all learned this past year how important it is to have that access,” Julie Reiskin, executive director of the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition, told Colorado Newsline. “Access to broadband is one thing, but just being able to … use the websites is really important also.”
State and local agencies will have until July 1, 2024 to comply with the new standards.
The World Wide Web Consortium Accessibility Initiative, which the state’s standards will be based off of, holds that an “accessible” website enables people with disabilities to “perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with the web,” as well as contribute their own content. According to the standards, that includes interoperability with screen readers, screen magnifiers and voice recognition software that can input text.
In addition to its website provisions, the Colorado law also prohibits people with disabilities from being excluded from state or local government services and prohibits government agencies from making rules with less protections for people with disabilities than held by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Though state laws protecting the rights of people with disabilities are common, Colorado claims to be the first state to take those efforts digital — a timely effort after a recent study And not a moment too soon, as a recent study revealed only 3% of more than 700 city websites met industry standards on both a desktop computer and mobile device.