Website Accessibility: Analyzing the DOJ’s Proposed Rule and Impacts on Public and Private Institutions of Higher Education Offering Distance Education

In August 2023, the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“Proposed Rule”) and took public comments about, a proposal to amend 25 C.F.R. Part 35, the regulations governing nondiscrimination on the basis of disability in state and local government services and implementing title II of the American with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). Such services would include the provision of distance education.

The proposal is to establish specific requirements, including the adoption of specific technical standards, for making accessible the services, programs, and activities offered by State and local Government entities to the public through the web and mobile apps. The proposal would make the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (“WCAG”) the ADA title II compliance standard for local and state governments.

When finalized, the standard would apply to websites and mobile apps. Governments would have two to three years for compliance, based on population size served. There are limited exceptions permitting inaccessible content, including archived content, preexisting documents made available prior to the effective date, third party posted web content, linked third party content

The Proposed Rule has far-reaching consequences beyond public institutions of higher education. The regulation will serve as template for potential future regulations or course of conduct at private institutions that own or operate places of public accommodation covered by title III of the ADA.  The Proposed Rule, therefore, is an opportunity to prepare for direction of travel on website accessibility, and potential reduce current and future risks.

This one hour webinar reviewed the Proposed Rule, the new compliance standard, DOJ’s continued uncertainty about how to measure compliance, exceptions, what we expect for the future from DOJ in terms of additional efforts to regulate in this area for private entities. and how public and private institutions of higher education may want to prepare now.

Click here to watch a recording of the webinar!
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