Why You Should Care About ADA Title II: Top 3 Reasons

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Why You Should Care About ADA Title II: Top 3 Reasons

Posted May 27, 2024


Posted May 27, 2024

Document with 'ADA' printed on it next to a man pushing a women in a wheelchair and a government building.
Document with 'ADA' printed on it next to a man pushing a women in a wheelchair and a government building.

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Title II of the ADA protects qualified individuals with disabilities from discrimination in information or services provided by state and local government entities. However, Title II doesn’t just affect government agencies. Discover what Title II means for your business and why you should care.

Complying with any type of legal regulation typically has two levels: compliance for the sake of compliance (i.e., to avoid legal action or monetary fines) or enthusiastic compliance (i.e., following recommendations to create a better product for users). 

Understandably, the latter reaction may be felt first, especially if the compliance standards you’re trying to meet are extensive or overwhelming. Yet, following these standards can drastically improve situations for users. 

Take the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Title II, for example. Recently, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced they would begin enforcing accessibility standards in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) to ensure individuals with disabilities have equal access to digital content. While following the more than 50 accessibility standards may feel overwhelming, doing so contributes to a more equitable, accessible online experience for Americans with disabilities. 

Below, we’ll explain why Title II of the ADA deserves your attention, the benefits of compliance, and how to avoid non-compliance penalties.

ADA Title II: Why Web Accessibility Deserves Your Attention

Think about how digital the world is today. In the last few decades, virtually every aspect of our day-to-day lives has been digitized. How we communicate, work, socialize, pay bills, manage our schedules, complete tasks, access information — all done online. 

Yet, too much of the web remains inaccessible to individuals with disabilities. For example, AudioEye’s Automated Accessibility Platform scanned over 2 million home pages and found an average of 37 accessibility errors per page. Errors ranged from lack of alt text and non-descriptive links to missing form and button labels, but each error limited disabled users from accessing online information — which is a civil right.

To combat this, the U.S. federal government created the ADA (among other accessibility guidelines), which protects individuals with disabilities from discrimination in places of public accommodation, including digital spaces. Title II focuses explicitly on ensuring that state and local governments' physical spaces as well as digital content are accessible. We’ll discuss Title II’s standards below.

Title II Regulations and Standards

Title II of the ADA applies specifically to local government entities as well as public entities. The DOJ has stated that public places also apply to online spaces, meaning organizations or entities that fall under the categories (which we’ll review below) are required to provide accessible digital content and adhere to accessibility requirements. 

According to the DOJ, organizations must follow the accessibility standards included in WCAG. WCAG guidelines include more than 50 success criteria, all of which are designed to improve usability and functionality for users with disabilities. For example, WCAG recommends that all images include alternative text (alt text) to ensure individuals with visual impairments (i.e. blindness or low vision) or those using screen readers don’t miss valuable information or context. WCAG also includes guidelines or suggestions for web elements such as links, buttons, forms, downloadable documents, closed captioning, subtitles, and more.

2024 Updates to ADA Title II Regulations

Towards the end of 2023, the DOJ issued a Notice of Proposed Rule Making to revise Title II of the ADA. The new ruling, which was finalized in April 2024, specifies that digital documents — including spreadsheets, presentation files, word-processing documents, and PDFs — must follow the guidelines and recommendations included in WCAG 2.1 Level A and AA.

ADA Title II: Who is Impacted in 2024?

When the ADA was first created (nearly 30 years ago), it was designed primarily for physical spaces (private entities were largely excluded from the ADA) and required organizations to provide reasonable accommodations for individuals with disabilities. 

Today, the act applies to the digital world, with the government requiring federal agencies to provide reasonable modifications for the disability community. This shift ensures that individuals with disabilities can access critical government documents, including public records, healthcare information, tax statements, utility statements, etc. 

Under the new guidelines, ADA Title II applies to state and local government agencies, including:

  • State executive legislatures
  • Local government programs or services
  • Counties, towns, and cities
  • School districts and other public education institutions 
  • Special purpose districts
  • Public transportation and transportation services
  • State and local government instrumentalities

Title II applies to third parties in addition to government agencies. For example, if an agency or vendor creates digital content that’s made available to a government agency, that content must comply with accessibility laws.

Stylized web browser with accessibility symbol, balanced scale, and AudioEye symbol next to it.

Benefits of Title II Compliance

Web accessibility is a critical investment for your business. While it can feel like a regulatory burden, accessible digital content actually unlocks a myriad of opportunities. We’ve highlighted a few benefits of ADA compliance below.

Compliance with Legal Mandates

This is arguably the biggest benefit of ADA compliance. While following WCAG accessibility standards won’t completely eliminate the likelihood of litigation or costly legal battles, it will minimize the risk.

Contribute to a More Equitable Internet

More importantly, accessible digital content enables you to contribute to a more equitable internet. More simply, you do your part in ensuring everyone — regardless of their ability — can access and use digital content. This also highlights your commitment to inclusivity and social responsibility, which creates a more positive reputation among consumers who increasingly value diversity and equality.

Expand Your Market Reach

1.3 billion people worldwide have a disability. If your digital content isn’t accessible, you limit the number of people who can use your product or service. By ensuring accessibility, you can tap into this vast market of potential customers, which means more customers and revenue opportunities.

ADA Title II: Penalties for Non-Compliance

The new Title II ruling now requires government agencies and local entities to comply with WCAG standards. Organizations that fail to meet WCAG 2.1 Level A and AA standards will face penalties put forth by the DOJ. This includes:

  • Financial penalties: If your digital content is inaccessible, you may have to pay substantial fines for lack of accessibility. For instance, a single ADA violation can cost up to $75,000 and increase to $150,000 for additional violations. 
  • Legal penalties and lawsuits: If an individual with a disability attempts to access or use your digital content but finds it inaccessible, the individual can pursue legal action against your business. This includes lawsuits or demand letters, which can be expensive, time-consuming, and reputation-damaging. 
  • Damage to business reputation: Today’s consumers increasingly value socially responsible and inclusive brands. Failing to follow Title II guidelines can portray your company as ignorant or uncaring, driving potential customers away. 

These penalties can have long-lasting and potentially severe consequences on your business. Rather than run the risk, prioritize accessibility. Doing so can help you thrive in today’s increasingly digital world where inclusivity and diversity are prioritized among consumers.

How AudioEye Helps You Champion Web Accessibility and Equity

Accessibility is no longer a nice-to-have feature — it’s a critical part of creating accessible and inclusive online environments where everyone can fully participate. While following ADA accessibility standards can feel overwhelming, doing so has a number of benefits, from minimizing legal action to expanding your customer base. 

Whether you’re just getting started with accessibility or have several years of experience in the industry, AudioEye is committed to supporting you on your accessibility journey.

For those just getting started, AudioEye’s free Web Accessibility Scanner provides a high-level view of how accessible your existing content is. With these insights, you can take proactive, strategic steps to remove accessibility barriers. 

Want to go a step further? Our Automated Accessibility Platform finds and fixes common accessibility issues using robust software. AudioEye’s team of expert testers then carefully audit your site to identify more complex accessibility barriers and provide custom fixes

From automated remediation to ongoing monitoring, support, and training, AudioEye equips your organization with everything needed to create a truly inclusive experience for all users. 

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