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image of Colorado flag imprinted on a circuit board representing Colorado accessibility law HB21-1110 guide blog post

Colorado Law HB21-1110 Requirements Guide for Suppliers

Dave Gibson

In the evolving landscape of digital accessibility, Colorado has taken a significant step forward with HB21-1110. This Colorado law establishes a new model for states to ensure that all state Information Technology Communication (ITC) used by state agencies are accessible to all Colorado citizens and employees of such agencies.

Effective July 1, 2024, this legislation requires that digital products and services purchased by state agencies meet the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) for digital accessibility.

Such businesses looking to sell digital products or services, such as software, websites, web-based application or SaaS, mobile apps, kiosks, and other digital products and content to Colorado state agencies will need to ensure they meet WCAG 2.1 A, AA and have a Volunteer Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) aka an Accessibility Conformance Report to show their compliance with WCAG and HB21-1110.

HB21-1110: A Milestone for Digital Accessibility in State Government

Originating from a growing need to make digital services accessible to all, HB21-1110 represents a pivotal moment in Colorado ITC procurement law. This law not only aligns with the state's commitment to inclusivity but also sets a precedent for how public agencies engage with technology providers. Its intent is clear: to ensure that digital products and services procured by state agencies are accessible to individuals with disabilities, thereby aligning Colorado agencies with international standards of digital inclusivity.

Colorado Agency Procurement Law Requirements: WCAG 2.1A, AA Compliance

Under HB21-1110, the spotlight is on WCAG 2.1, the international standard for digital accessibility. For ITC providers, understanding how to meet Colorado ITC requirements means becoming well-versed in these guidelines. WCAG 2.1 encompasses a range of criteria designed to make web content more accessible, including provisions ensuring that digital interfaces and content is accessible to seniors and people with an array of challenges and with a keyboard alone, screen readers and other assistive technology.

WCAG: The Standard for ITC Accessibility

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are the cornerstone of HB21-1110's requirements. As the international standard for web accessibility, WCAG 2.1 provides a framework for making digital content accessible to people with various disabilities. It covers a wide range of recommendations for making web content more accessible and user-friendly.

VPAT for WCAG Conformance Reporting 

A Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) and subsequent Accessibility Conformance Report (ACR) are vital tools in demonstrating your product's WCAG conformance. These documents provide detailed reporting of the degree to which your product meets WCAG standards, offering transparency and credibility to state agencies regarding your compliance efforts.

For ITC providers, understanding the importance of a VPAT and ACR is crucial to meet procurement requirements. As Colorado state agencies increasingly align with HB21-1110, they are very likely to require a VPAT from potential vendors. More on VPATs and ACRs for digital product and service providers.

What Are the Penalties for HB21-1110?

There are no potential legal penalties under this law for suppliers. The risk to suppliers is simply the loss of sales with state agencies.

The risk and penalties for noncompliance of HB21-1110 lay entirely on the agency. Such actions and penalties include:

  • A court order requiring compliance;
  • Monetary damages;
  • Attorney’s fees; or
  • A statutory fine of $3,500 payable to each plaintiff for each violation, who must be someone from the disability community. For example, after the July 1, 2024, deadline, if an individual tries to use a website that is not accessible, the government entity may be subject to a $3,500 statutory fine that is payable to the individual for each violation. 

Therefore, expect strict procurement procedures that require a current VPAT to back-up claims of WCAG compliance. Hiring a third party to author the VPAT is an excellent idea. Not only does this ensure the VPAT is correctly written and reflects the accessibility of the product, but it also carries a higher degree of credibility.

Best Practices for CO HB21-1110 Compliance

  • In-depth WCAG Training: Ensure your team is thoroughly trained in WCAG 2.1, understanding both the letter and spirit of each guideline.
  • Use Objective Third Party Experts: Hire established and reputable accessibility consultants to regularly audit digital products and update VPAT/ACR. Beware of any that rely on software. Human testing is essential. 
  • Development of Accessible Content: Ensure that all digital content, from text to multimedia, is created with accessibility in mind.
  • Technical Implementation: Pay special attention to the technical aspects of WCAG, such as semantic HTML, ARIA roles, and keyboard navigability.
  • For web-based products and websites, never utilize “overlay” plugins, widgets or toolbars. 

The Opportunity for Digital Product Providers to Promote Accessibility

Beyond compliance, ITC providers have a unique opportunity to be leaders in promoting digital accessibility. By embracing these standards, providers can improve user experience, reach a wider audience, and demonstrate a commitment to social responsibility. This proactive engagement not only positions providers favorably in the eyes of state agencies but also sets a standard for the industry.

Wrap Up

Understanding and implementing WCAG standards is not just about access to state purchasing markets; it's about embracing the spirit of inclusivity. By adopting these best practices and utilizing tools like VPATs and ACRs, you can demonstrate your commitment to creating accessible digital products, ensuring you meet the requirements of HB21-1110 and contribute to a more inclusive digital environment in Colorado and beyond.

If you have further questions about how we can help your company comply with HB21-1110, please contact us.