Colorado Becomes First State to Require State and Local Government Websites to Meet Accessibility Standards

Today marks the 31st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a civil rights law passed in 1990 that prohibits discrimination against people with physical or mental impairments that substantially limit a major life activity. The legislation continues to help disabled people gain equal access to employment, schools, transportation, government services, and public accommodations.

In a speech at the Rose Garden today, President Joe Biden announced guidance that would extend the ADA protections to COVID-19 long haulers who experience lingering symptoms that qualify as a disability.

“We’re bringing agencies together to make sure Americans with long COVID who have a disability have access to the rights and resources that are due under the disability law,” he said. “Which includes accommodations and services in the workplace and school, and our health care system, so they can live their lives in dignity and get the support they need as they continue to navigate these challenges.”

The Biden administration is continuing its commitment to accessibility which was first declared publicly on WhiteHouse.gov. When Biden took office, the site relaunched on WordPress with an accessibility statement, highlighting its ongoing accessibility efforts towards conforming to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) version 2.1, level AA criteria.

Last week, Colorado became the first US state to require state and local government websites to meet accessibility standards as established by the state’s Chief Information Officer. The bill states that the accessibility standards are to be identified using “the most recent web content accessibility guidelines promulgated and published by the world wide web consortium web accessibility initiative or the international accessibility guidelines working group.

Each state agency in Colorado is required to submit an accessibility plan to the office before July 1, 2022. The office will review the plan and work collaboratively to set an implementation methodology. State agencies are required to fully implement the plan before July 1, 2024. Any agency not in full compliance will be considered in violation of laws that prevent discrimination against individuals with a disability. The bill also makes it easier for an individual with a disability to bring a civil suit against noncompliant agencies and the agency’s $3,500 statutory fine would be payable to the plaintiff.

“This bill will give our local governments the resources to make sure they’re complying with the ADA,” Julie Reiskin, Executive Director of the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition, told Colorado Public Radio. “Particularly after the year we just had. People who were blind couldn’t sign up for vaccines, get information online, sign language interpreters weren’t widely available. Failing to fund this says people with disabilities don’t matter.”

WordPress web developers responsible for Colorado state or local websites should be ready to deliver accessible websites on the timeline laid out in the bill. It applies to any department, agency, special district, or other instrumentality. All of the state agency websites are currently running on Drupal 7, but the state has more than 4,268 active local governments. Many of them use WordPress and those responsible for these local sites will need to begin the process of creating a plan to ensure they are accessible before July 1, 2024.

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9 responses to “Colorado Becomes First State to Require State and Local Government Websites to Meet Accessibility Standards”

  1. Dr G says:

    This is huge!

    While we’ve had this as law across Europe for well over a decade, many sites (and CMS’s) don’t do things until it’s an issue State-side. Well done Colorado for driving the web forward 🙂

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  2. Kris Driessen says:

    I would be delighted to make my blog ADA compliant if they would simply state the requirements. I can make a good guess, but I never would have guessed that I needed a sign language interpreter for the written word. That confuses me.

    Just give web designers a list. No one wants to make their website inaccessible to people with disabilities.

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    • Deborah Edwards-Onoro says:

      Not sure I understand. Where did you read you were required to have a sign language interpreter for the written word?

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    • Annie Heckel says:

      The requirements are publicly available, happily! Look up “Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.” The most current published version is 2.1, and you need to meet the Level A and AA guidelines to be considered as meeting the minimum accessibility needs. The guidelines can be a little confusing sometimes, but there’s a really active community of web accessibility professionals who are happy to help people get a handle on what you need to do (and no, you do not need sign language interpretation for the written word; being deaf doesn’t prevent you from reading written language).

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    • Jane Townley says:

      It should be much less confusing when you learn some of the most basic information on the subject. The guidelines for websites have been freely available for decades, but it’s far from just “a list”. It’s comprehensive and thorough. For most websites it will involve a major overhaul by someone who understands web accessibility, a large amount of time-consuming, detailed work. But it doesn’t sound like your blog is a Colorado government website anyway.

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    • George Cowan says:

      Hi Kris, there are ways to make your website compliant. You can do an audit first that will giv you the violations and then with a script (or widget) the corrective actions will have a pop up giving the person with disability a way to correct their specific disability (ies). Did you know that one out five Americans have one or more diability? Take a look at our website and you will see how it works when you click on the Green Icon of the left. https://abcgmarketing.com/ada-wcag-compliance/

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    • Aditya says:

      Hello Kris,
      There are few things we can do to make our site accessible to a major group of users. Just making sure it works with keyboard, having good color contrast, simple & easy to read text. Some of these small things will move the needle. We are trying to simplify this success criterions & provide actionable information.

      Our blog is new, but we are making efforts to get the right content & update the content each day.https://modernaccessibility.com

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  3. cast says:

    Thanks for the informative share. These rules should be brought to other states as well. In addition, disabled citizens should be given more privileges. Everyone is a candidate for disability. It should be treated more tolerantly.

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  4. Jill says:

    Hi Kris!
    There is kind of a list called the Success Criteria, but honestly it’s not that easy to interpret. https://www.w3.org/WAI/WCAG21/quickref/

    That said, there are a few easy actions you can take that make a huge difference to disabled people.

    Install and run the Wave Chrome extension. This will only catch 20-30% of the violations but it’s a good start.
    Make sure you have concise and descriptive alt text on your images. Write it like you’re describing the image to a person who can’t see.
    Use headings (h1, h2, h3, etc) as a hierarchical structure (e.g., h1 is the title of the page, h2 are sub-heading of h1, h3 sub-heading of h2, etc.) vs a way to size your text.

    Take those three actions and your site will be more accessible than most.

    P.S. Never use an accessibility overlay plugin….NEVER, EVER, EVER.

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