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2016 Legal Landscape Update: State and Local Government

Rishi Agrawal 03/23/17

In 2016, the number of lawsuits for digital accessibility increased dramatically. With the court cases and settlements of previous years, the message was loud and clear: the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applied to digital accessibility and the Department of Justice (DOJ) was going to enforce digital accessibility.

State and local government websites have responsibility to the public to make sure that everyone living in their community has equal access to the information and services provided by the government. Some accessibility issues, such as the ability to vote, can even curtail fundamental rights. Although updates to ADA Title II (covering state and local governments) stalled out in 2016, there have been a number of new developments in 2016. 

Montgomery County, Maryland

Yasmin Reyazuddin, an employee of Montgomery County who is blind, worked at a call center. When the call center procured new software that was incompatible with a screen reader, Reyazuddin brought a lawsuit against the county. A Federal District Court held that the County was required to provide their employee with a reasonable accommodation under the Rehabilitation Act.

Local Initiatives

In March, New York City mayor Bill de Blasio signed bills that required New York City agencies to make their websites accessible. In addition, the DOJ announced a settlement with the city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin after an investigation concerning ADA violations. For both New York and Milwaukee, all city websites must comply with the WCAG 2.0 AA Success Criteria.

Voting Rights

With 2016 being a presidential election year, voting rights were on everyone’s mind. The issue in many voting rights cases is that, in order to mark an absentee ballot, voters who are blind frequently have to request assistance from a sighted person. This violates the voter’s right to mark their ballot privately.

In 2016, several jurisdictions were sued for not having a way for voters who are blind to mark absentee ballots online. A court in Maryland held that Maryland was required to have accessible absentee ballots. A settlement reached with voters in San Mateo, California also required accessible absentee ballots. In Ohio, a court also ruled that the state must provide accessible ballots for voters who are blind, but concluded that there was not enough time prior to the election to implement changes.

Want to Learn More?

Download our free whitepaper: 2016 Legal Landscape Update: State and Local Government

Content provided by Level Access is intended for general information and education. The materials and facts presented do not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon in the face of pending litigation. If you have specific legal questions, please contact a lawyer.

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