DOJ cracks the whip on accessibility of US public websites

Aperschnalzen whip-cracking © Berchtesgadener Land Tourismus

In the US, the dream is over for commercial firms: now most public websites must comply with web accessibility guidelines.

How strange. Once upon a time we thought that WCAG 2.0 and Section 508 applied solely to government agencies and government-funded agencies. While government organisations in some countries are given ever-extending deadlines to comply, the US Department of Justice tells commercial firms: do it now—it's the law and it has been since 1990.

Once upon a time we thought that official government information was the only information that mattered. Now the US DOJ says, hey, people with disabilities need to be able to go shopping online too!

Once upon a time we thought that information on the web was such a specialised kind of information that it needed its own laws and regulations. The web itself was like another territory.

Now the US DOJ says hey, everyone is shopping, reading, working, viewing, listening, studying and transacting online and they're not all sitting at their office desk, either. So those longstanding, time-honoured laws about equal opportunity and human rights are relevant here. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) already covers web accessibility for commercial firms: of course it does—why wouldn't it?

Meanwhile, back in New Zealand... 

Seyfarth Shaw explains how interpretation of accessibility legislation has changed in the US

Note to you, if you just sat up in alarm, thinking OMG you mean we could be taken to court if our web site is not accessible? Relax. We can help. Just call Alice.

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