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Title II of the ADA: How New Guidelines Affect Public Entities

Posted June 06, 2024


Posted June 06, 2024

Paper reading 'Government Contract' with a gavel on the right side and the accessibility icon on the left.
Paper reading 'Government Contract' with a gavel on the right side and the accessibility icon on the left.

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New changes to ADA Title II require state and local government agencies to make their digital content accessible to individuals with disabilities. Learn how the new ruling is likely to affect accessibility for public entities in this blog post.

The internet has changed how state and local governments serve citizens. Tax forms, job applications, license renewals — all are offered online for easy access and faster service.

Yet, it begs the question: Is this information equally available to everyone? This question is at the heart of the new changes to Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The latest Title II ruling (which we’ll discuss in more detail below) aims to increase accessibility on state and local government websites. However, even if your business is not affiliated with state or local government, the recent changes to Title II could affect your business.

Let’s get into it.

What is the ADA and Title II?

Enacted in 1990, the ADA is a landmark piece of accessibility legislation that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in places of public accommodation. The original act specifically applied to physical spaces, including public buildings and transportation. With the creation of the internet, the act's scope expanded to include online spaces.

What is the ADA Title II’s New Rule?

The U.S Department of Justice (DOJ) recently signed a new rule requiring state and local government programs and services to make their online services and information accessible to individuals with disabilities. This means digital content, including text, images, multimedia content, and mobile apps, must comply with ADA accessibility guidelines. 

Entities that are directly affected by the new ruling include:

  • State and local government services, including city council, police and fire departments, health offices, etc.
  • Specialty districts such as park management, water distribution, and public transportation. 
  • Contractors and third parties contracted by state or local governments to provide public services. 

Under the new ruling, governments with a population of 50,000 or more have two years from the publish date (April 2024) to meet compliance standards, and governments with less than 50,000 people have three years to comply. Enforcement will be overseen by the ADA with municipalities or organizations facing potential legal action or potential fines for non-compliance.

How Title II Might Affect Public Entities

As mentioned above, new changes to Title II directly affect state or local governments. Public entities must start changing their digital content to ensure it’s accessible and usable by individuals with disabilities. These efforts involve adhering to accessibility guidelines in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).

However, new Title II guidelines will likely ripple effect beyond state and local government entities. Essentially, the updates to Title II signal a broader shift towards standard accessibility guidelines and inclusivity principles that are likely to extend to the private sector. 

As societal expectations evolve and accessibility awareness increases, businesses will face increasing pressure to proactively address accessibility concerns and ensure equal access for individuals with disabilities. For many companies, this will involve revisiting infrastructure and digital platforms to align with WCAG guidelines. Doing so can help reduce legal risk and create a more inclusive environment for all users. 

Additionally, if (and when) the DOJ enforces standard accessibility guidelines, it may eventually lead to new Title III standards. Title III of the ADA applies specifically to private sectors and requires these entities to be accessible to individuals with disabilities. With standard accessibility guidelines finally being specified by the DOJ, it’s likely the government will specify accessibility requirements for private sectors in the near future.

A hand holding a gavel, poised over an accessibility symbol with concentric ripples emanating from the center.

What Municipalities can do to Mitigate Accessibility Risks

Here’s the good news: There are things state and local governments or those affected by Title II regulations can do to mitigate potential legal risks or negative user experiences. This includes:

  • Conduct an accessibility audit: To increase accessibility, you first need to understand how accessible your existing content is. Conducting an accessibility audit of all your digital content (including web pages, mobile apps, multimedia content, and electronic documents) can help you understand your current level of accessibility and where improvements are needed. Using an ADA compliance checklist or an automated accessibility audit is a great place to start. 
  • Create a mitigation plan: Once you have the audit results, create a mitigation plan. We recommend prioritizing fixes based on severity and lift — start with the small fixes while creating a strategic remediation plan for larger or more complex issues.
  • Implement changes: Execute your mitigation plan by making the necessary changes to your physical or digital infrastructure. This might involve changing the layout of a web page to be more accessible to screen readers, adjusting color contrast levels, or adding closed captions or subtitles to video content. 
  • Monitor and follow-up: Once you’ve implemented your changes, get feedback from people with disabilities to ensure your changes are accessible and create a more user-friendly experience. Regular accessibility audits can help you ensure ongoing compliance with shifting accessibility standards. 

Taking proactive steps to increase accessibility enables municipalities to reduce the risk of legal action and negative user experiences. This results in a more positive brand image, higher user engagement and satisfaction, better SEO rankings, and so much more. By embracing accessibility, individuals with disabilities can fully engage with public services, facilities, and programs — a basic civil right.

Ultimately, prioritizing accessibility now not only helps you align with accessibility requirements but also promotes equity, enhances user satisfaction, and future-proofs your services and infrastructure for a more inclusive society.

Prepare for Future Accessibility Standards with AudioEye

Whether the recent changes to Title II directly impact your organization or not, taking proactive steps to enhance accessibility can help you minimize the risk of legal challenges, improve the user experience, and demonstrate a commitment to equality and diversity.

At AudioEye, we give you all the tools needed to further accessibility. Using our free Web Accessibility Scanner, you can get a high-level overview of how accessible your existing digital content is. Our scanner tests your content against more than 400 WCAG success criteria and highlights where common accessibility issues exist. Our Automated Accessibility Platform then provides automatic fixes for these issues while our team of experts conducts an Expert Audit of your content to find and fix more complex issues. The result: accessible digital content that adheres to accessibility standards and improves the user experience.

Ready to get started? Enter a URL into our free Web Accessibility Scanner today. 

Want to see what AudioEye can do? Schedule a demo and see how we can help you enhance accessibility. 

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