News Flash

Federal Government

Posted on: September 8, 2023

Civil Rights Division Accessibility Standards Proposed Rulemaking

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Civil Rights Division recently published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to require certain accessibility standards for state and local government services, programs, and activities offered via web or mobile apps and included a brief summary

DOJ proposes to adopt the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 Level AA standard. Municipalities with populations above 50,000 would be required to comply within two years of publication of a final rule, while municipalities with populations below 50,000 would have three years. 

The League’s federal partner, the National League of Cities (NLC) plans to comment prior to the October 3 deadline and is seeking feedback from municipalities on the following to help inform advocacy efforts: 

  • When considering the full scope of your community's web and mobile app presence, how close are you to compliance with the proposed standard already?
  • What would the estimated cost be to bring your community into compliance? Please consider both the initial cost of upgrading to compliance, as well as ongoing costs of maintenance and upkeep.
  • What does that cost mean, relative to the overall budget of your city, town, or village?
  • What would be the most challenging requirements to meet? Are there additional specific exemptions we could propose that would make compliance less burdensome for your community–again, including when considering the ongoing cost to remain in compliance in the future?
  • Do you believe the compliance timeline is reasonable for your community? If not, is there a different timeline that would be manageable that we could propose?
  • Are there specific forms of assistance, technical or otherwise, that the federal government could provide to make the compliance burden less for your community?
  • Are there other issues that you think we should address in our comments? For example, I have heard concerns about the potential burden of abusive litigation if the NPRM is finalized as-is.

 Proposed exempted content includes:  

  • Archived web content; 
  • Preexisting conventional electronic documents; 
  • Web content posted by third parties on a public entity's website; 
  • Third-party web content linked from a public entity's website; 
  • Course content on a public entity's password-protected or otherwise secured website for admitted students enrolled in a specific course offered by a public postsecondary institution; 
  • Class or course content on a public entity's password-protected or otherwise secured website for students enrolled, or parents of students enrolled, in a specific class or course at a public elementary or secondary school; and conventional electronic documents that are about a specific individual, their property, or their account and that are password-protected or otherwise secured. There are limitations on these exemptions as well.

Please feel free to share this with any municipal staff or vendors who may be able to help provide estimates to use as part of the comments. NLC will anonymize your feedback – e.g., A city with a population of approximately 65,000 shared that the initial cost to reach compliance would be $XX, with an anticipated ongoing annual cost of $XX.

Comments should be sent to Angelina Panettieri at the National League of Cities at apanettierri@nlc.org and please copy Paul Penna, NJLM Senior Legislative Analyst, at ppenna@njlm.org no later than September 25.

Contact: Paul Penna, Senior Legislative Analyst, ppenna@njlm.org, 609-695-3481, x110.

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