DOJ Releases Its Final Rule on Government Website Accessibility

Title II ADA Compliance

The DOJ recently released its final rule on government website accessibility, effective June 24, 2024. Previously, the Agency ruled that websites and mobile apps for commercial businesses (Title III entities) must accommodate users with disabilities. With this new rule, all State and Local government (Title II entities) must also now comply with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 Level AA, published by the Worldwide Web Consortium.

This DOJ final rule on government website accessibility aims to provide equal access to digital content for individuals with disabilities, ensuring they can access governmental agencies’ services, programs, and activities. 

The Implications of the DOJ Final Rule on Government Website Accessibility

The implications of the DOJ final rule on government website accessibility for State and Local government operations fall into two categories: bringing the covered content into compliance and facing potential legal consequences for non-compliance. 

Meeting WCAG 2.1 Level AA Requirements

State and Local IT operations face the daunting challenge of updating website and mobile content to meet the standards set by the WCAG. Among the more basic requirements are:

  • Sufficient contrast between text and background colors.
  • Adding text descriptions of all important images in support of screen reader users.
  • Creating a logical page structure using HTML Heading tags (like <h1>, <h2>, <p>, etc.) to help screen reader users understand the structure and navigate sections easily.
  • Use more descriptive link descriptions that tell the user what action their click will produce.
  • Providing media enhancements like closed captions for videos and transcripts for both video and audio content.
  • Removing auto-play settings for video to reduce discomfort for users with cognitive disabilities.

These are just a handful of the more than 90 guidelines covered by WCAG 2.1. The newer version, 2.2, adds 13 more guidelines and 9 “success factors.” While compliance with WCAG 2.2 isn’t required in the DOJ final rule on government website accessibility, it’s prudent to anticipate that they will require compliance in the future.

Fortunately, State and Local governments have some time to meet the DOJ final rule on accessibility, as shown in the following compliance deadline table from the ADA:

State and local government size Compliance date
0 to 49,999 persons April 26, 2027
Special district governments April 26, 2027
50,000 or more persons April 24, 2026

Defending Against Potential Legal Actions

The second category involves the potential for legal action. First, agencies failing to comply can face legal action by the DOJ, including being levied with significant fines and possibly losing federal funding.

Secondly, ADA compliance, or more accurately, failure to comply, provides fertile ground for malicious professional plaintiffs. These plaintiffs relentlessly search for potential violations even if they do not intend to use the website or mobile app. When they find a violation, they file a lawsuit to force compliance. The targeted agency faces legal fees, penalties, and other financial consequences as a result of these “tester lawsuits.”

Exceptions Allowed in the Rule

The DOJ has included some exceptions in its final rule on government website accessibility. For example, compliance is not required when compliance results in a significant restructuring of a website’s content or imposes undue financial and administrative burdens. Archived web and pre existing content like PDFs, social media posts, and other specific content types also are exempt from compliance.

Compliance Help For the DOJ Final Rule on Government Website Accessibility

If you’d like help bringing your website into compliance with the DOJ final rule on government website accessibility, contact us by phone at 818-592-6370, or by using our online contact form to learn more. We’re web compliance pros!