By Michael Caprara
In a continued effort to promote equal access and inclusivity, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Biden-Harris Administration have joined forces to advance a proposed rule that aims to strengthen web and mobile app accessibility for people with disabilities. With the ever-increasing reliance on digital platforms, ensuring that public services are accessible to all is a crucial step towards building a more inclusive society. Although the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed over 30 years ago, many people with disabilities still cannot access services that are web or mobile-based. The pandemic brought to light the unequal access and the inability for the disabled to conduct vital online transactions, such as filing taxes, enrolling in health and human services, signing up for COVID vaccines and conducting banking activities, that those without disabilities simply take for granted.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the key points of the DOJ’s proposed rule and how it seeks to bridge the accessibility gap in the digital realm.
Promoting Inclusive Innovation: In recognition of the 33rd anniversary of the passing of the ADA, the Biden-Harris administration made clear its commitment to making public services accessible to all and underscores the significance of inclusive innovation. By taking a proactive approach to address digital inequalities, the administration sets an example for other institutions to follow. Implementing universal design principles and prioritizing accessibility can lead to technological advancements that benefit everyone.
Clearer Guidelines for Online Accessibility: One of the most notable aspects of the proposed DOJ rule is its emphasis on clear accessibility guidelines. It suggests that digital content should be presented in a way that accommodates individuals with various disabilities, such as visual, hearing, motor, and cognitive. By providing specific, standardized criteria, state and local government agencies can take actionable steps to remove digital barriers and create a more inclusive online environment.
Prioritizing Inclusive Digital Spaces: By setting new accessibility standards, the Department of Justice aims to encourage businesses and organizations to prioritize accessibility during the development of digital services. This shift towards inclusivity has the potential to create a more diverse and representative online landscape that benefits not only individuals with disabilities but also a broader audience.
Broader Impact: The proposed rule has the potential to significantly improve the lives of people with disabilities by removing digital barriers. By enhancing online accessibility, it naturally promotes independence and self-sufficiency. Moreover, the initiative sets a precedent for private businesses and organizations to follow suit, creating a ripple effect that extends beyond the public sector.
Digital accessibility is a fundamental right that ensures equal opportunities for everyone. The proposed rule by the DOJ and the ongoing efforts by the Biden-Harris Administration showcase actionable support for the disability community and the importance of accessibility. Read more on the proposed DOJ rule and the administration’s efforts to make it easier for people with disabilities to access public services online.
Chief Information Officer, The Viscardi Center