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U.S.A Web Accessibility

U.S. Web Accessibility Laws

The main web accessibility law in the U.S. is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) enacted in 1990. Although the ADA specifies physical spaces, as it was penned before the Internet even existed (the first website went up in 1991), it clearly invokes principles of accessibility, not narrow guidelines. Courts have interpreted it to apply to digital spaces. Under Title III of the ADA, places of public accommodation, which include businesses and organizations that serve the public online, are required to provide equal access to individuals with disabilities.

Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act applies to federal agencies and mandates that their electronic and information technology (EIT) be accessible to individuals with disabilities. This includes websites, software, and other digital products developed, procured, or used by federal agencies.

The Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA) focuses on accessibility in telecommunications and advanced communication services. It includes requirements for accessibility in communication technologies, such as mobile devices and voice-over IP (VoIP) services.

The State of California has its own web accessibility legislation known as the Unruh Civil Rights Act. It was named after its author, Jesse M. Unruh. The bill applies to the private sector in California and its latest revisions have incorporated the standards of the ADA for website accessibility. In short, the bill resembles ADA in many respects but severs the financial costs on businesses and places most legal responsibility on them, putting organizations at a disadvantage in court.

To comply with all these regulations, the best method is to remediate and audit your digital assets against the international Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). Although it is arguable which bill stipulates or draws its accessibility standards from the WCAG, it is a benchmark standard for web accessibility all over the world. In other words, if your website conforms to WCAG 2.1 Level AA Success Criteria, it is safe to say you are covered by the law.

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