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Accessibility Laws and Regulations
Earlier this month the United States Department of Justice admitted what many of us have suspected: we will not be seeing web accessibility regulations in the United States for commercial and public entities any time soon. Some time in 2013 at the earliest.
In July, 2010, the Department issued what is called an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rule Making indicating that it was planning to issue regulations about web accessibility. The step after an “Advanced Notice” is a “Notice of Proposed Rule Making” (NPRM). After that is the rule itself. In its semi-annual regulatory agenda for Spring 2011, however, the DOJ called the NPRM for Web Accessibility a “Long Term Item” not expected until December, 2012. That’s well over a year from now. And it is close to two years after the public comment period on the Advanced Notice closed, and almost two and one half years after the DOJ announced the possible regulations in July, 2010.
The United States Access Board has announced that it will (finally) publish proposed Public Rights-of-Way Guidelines on July 26 - the 21st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The guidelines will address access to sidewalks and streets by people with disabilities, including accessible pedestrian signals, crosswalks, roundabouts, curb ramps, street furnishings, parking, and other components of public rights-of-way. Technical specifications on these issues will be welcomed, but it is important to remember that the Americans with Disabilities Act has required such access for more than twenty years.
On July 22, 2011, there will be a hearing in the federal court house in San Francisco in the disability access case against JetBlue Airways. JetBlue is asking United States District Court Magistrate Judge Joseph Spero to dismiss the case. The hearing will be held at 9:30 a.m. at 450 Golden Gate Avenue in Court Room A on the 15th Floor. The hearing is open to the public. The case, brought by the California Council of the Blind and three blind JetBlue customers, is about access barriers on JetBlue’s website and the inaccessibility of JetBlue’s airport check-in kiosks to people with visual impairments.
On January 10, 2011, Lainey Feingold testified at the San Francisco Public Hearing on the Advance Notices of Proposed Rulemaking to Revise the ADA Implementing Regulations. The hearing was the last of three held in conjunction with proposed rules on web accessibility and other issues. In her comments, posted here, Lainey urged the Department not to re-invent the wheel, and not to make any rule that would be a “Do Not Enter” sign on the information highway.
The United States Department of Justice has now made the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design available on line. The Standards were included in the revised ADA regulations announced by the Department in September, 2010, but the 257 page document was not on line until November 15, 2010. The Standards include, for the first time, detailed requirements for Talking ATMs.
Can a small law firm’s website help the United States Department of Justice in its web accessibility rulemaking process? When the website — LFLegal.com — has been designed to meet Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0, I think the answer is yes.
In its July 26, 2010 Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking about web accessibility, the United States Department of Justice asks several questions about how web accessibility regulations might affect small businesses. This post provides information about the accessibility of this law firm’s (a small business) website, and is intended as a resource for individuals and organizations preparing comments in response to the DOJ ANPRM.