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State Attorneys General Ask DOJ to Act Now on Website Accessibility Rules

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Scales of JusticeAdding to a rising number of calls for clarity on digital accessibility rules, the Attorneys General of 18 states and the District of Columbia have sent a letter to United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions requesting the Department of Justice (DOJ) draft web accessibility regulations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The letter centered on the rising volume of website accessibility litigation, as well as how the lack of clear rules makes it difficult for businesses to know if they are compliant with the ADA, which does not itself set requirements for websites. Credit unions, community banks, and retailers were among the industries specifically named in the letter.

“The ADA has been instrumental throughout the years in providing protection for individuals with disabilities. However, when it comes to web accessibility standards, the ADA does not provide clear guidance to the public or regulated entities. This void in the law has led to unnecessary lawsuits in an effort to exploit the law’s ambiguity for financial gain with little or no corresponding benefit to consumers,” the letter read.

The letter also emphasized the split between courts on whether and when the ADA applies to websites. To prove this point, a footnote detailing the inconsistent results of digital accessibility cases in courts across the country takes up half of the letter’s second page.

After noting that the DOJ last year withdrew its 2010 Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on website accessibility, the letter requested that the “DOJ issue a proposed rule to provide exact standards for web accessibility, and provide any guidance in the interim. Such a regulation will provide much needed legal certainty and predictability, which in turn will benefit consumers and businesses alike.”

The letter joins a growing chorus of calls for clear regulation by the DOJ, including a letter in June from over 100 members of the House of Representatives and a draft House appropriations bill that if passed would request the DOJ to act on the issue, as well as calls from industry groups. It is not clear, however, what effect if any these calls for regulation will have, given the Trump administration’s antipathy toward regulations.

The letter was signed by the attorneys general of Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Indiana, Louisiana, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, and Wisconsin. While the group was largely made up of Republicans, it also included two Democrats (DC, Iowa) and an independent (Alaska).

This blog post is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.

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