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.