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Feds Adopt WCAG 2.0 AA Standard for .Gov Websites

Dave Gibson

On January 9, 2017 the U.S. Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board issued their final rule under Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act requiring all federal websites and digital content conform to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0) level AA. WCAG 2.0 has three levels of conformity: A, AA, AAA (AAA being the most strict). The ruling gives federal agencies 12 months to conform to AA levels .

This ruling gives further indications of the direction the Department of Justice will go in regards to their rulings for commercial websites for places of public accommodation. However, amongst industry experts, there's been little question whether the DOJ's eventual clarification will be anything other than WCAG 2.0 AA. The DOJ has consistently sited WCAG 2.0 AA as the standard used in all DOJ settlements, and it is widely adopted world-wide  

The DOJ was supposed to set this rule in Nov 2016 but has punted to 2018. Many attribute the inaction and continued delays to the influence of the powerful Plaintiffs Lawyer Bar Association, who's members are eager to see this area of litigation grow.

And grow it has. In November 2016, the Wall Street Journal reported on the rapid growth of web accessibility cases.

According to the National Law Review (1/13/17): "The takeaway for private sector businesses looking to bring their websites into ADA compliance is that WCAG 2.0 Level AA has now gained further prominence as the most likely standard that a court will look to in determining a website’s compliance with the ADA"

Website owners should take heed and avoid legal risk by either building fresh accessible websites, or remediating their existing websites.