Virginia Governor Vetoes Bill Imposing Waiting Period of Digital Accessibility Lawsuits

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam has vetoed House Bill 2296, a bill which would have amended the Virginians with Disabilities Act in digital accessibility suits against financial institutions. 

House Bill 2296, which was passed in February by a 55-43 margin in the Virginia House of Delegates and a 33-7 margin in the Virginia Senate, would have required plaintiffs to provide 120days’ notice to banks, trust companies, savings institutions, and credit unions before filing suit under the Virginians with Disabilities Act in website accessibility cases.  

The bill would also have created a safe harbor for financial institutions in cases where the website meets the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Level AA standards. This provision, however, was to sunset once the federal Department of Justice adopts website accessibility standards. 

The push for House Bill 2296 came after a wave of digital accessibility lawsuits against credit unions and banks in Virginia, several of which were dismissed for lack of standing or mootness. 

Governor Northam’s veto comes after the legislature’s rejection of his proposed revision to the law, which would have retained the WCAG 2.0 Level AA safe harbor for financial institutions, while eliminating the 120-day notice-and-cure period.  

Because veto overrides require a 2/3 majority of both houses of the Virginia General Assembly, it is likely that Governor Northam’s veto will stand. 

If enacted, House Bill 2296 would have joined laws in several states, including Florida, Arizona, and Ohio, designed to make it more difficult for plaintiffs to bring accessibility suits. These laws have been of limited effect, however, as the vast majority of accessibility lawsuits are brought under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, rather than state laws.  

The Bottom Line 

While state laws like House Bill 2296 might make it more difficult to bring actions based on state accessibility laws, they won’t stop a plaintiff from filing a lawsuit under the Americans with Disabilities Act in federal court. If you’re unsure of your level of risk of a digital accessibility lawsuit, contact Level Access today for a complimentary Risk Assessment. We can let you know how your website and other digital assets are—and aren’t—accessible to users with disabilities, as well as work with you to determine proper next steps.