The Department of Justice (DOJ) recently released a statement announcing they are withdrawing the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on web information and services for state and local governments. In its place, the DOJ has issued a Supplemental Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (SANPRM) published in the Federal Register, intending to solicit comments from the public on various issues to assist the DOJ in shaping and furthering its rulemaking efforts. The DOJ expressed they are aware of the current need for web accessibility rules in the public sector and claim the comment period will be critical to attaining the ADA’s mandate.
- On July 9, 2014, the NPRM had been submitted for review to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB)
- On April 28, 2016, the DOJ withdrew its NPRM titled, “Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability; Accessibility of Web Information and Services of State and Local Government Entities” (RIN 1190-AA65)
- DOJ issued a SANPRM, titled, “Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability; Accessibility of Web Information and Services of State and Local Government Entities”
- SANPRM was published in the Federal Register on May 9, 2016, and open for comment until August 8, 2016
- The goal of the SANPRM is to seek additional information through public comments to assist the DOJ further and form rulemaking efforts
- The DOJ wishes to gain critical information concerning specific topics, including feedback on how to measure web accessibility benefits and benefits to individuals with specific types of disabilities
- The DOJ also seeks to collect further information regarding the current state of accessibility of public entity websites and the experience of disabled individuals using public entity websites
Why The Change?
The DOJ has explained that since the original Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM), the landscape has changed drastically. The Internet and assistive devices, used by individuals with disabilities to navigate the Internet, have evolved and become inexpensive. The expectation is that comments submitted on the current SANPRM will be more focused and relevant than comments received during the 2010 ANPRM. Additionally, the DOJ intends to use submitted comments and information collected during this comment period to conduct research and studies to understand the cost and benefits of web accessibility regulations.
The DOJ realizes the current need for regulations on web accessibility in the public sector, but further delaying rulemaking will only cause more confusion and uncertainty for companies and business that operate or provide goods and services on the Internet. The DOJ is trying to catch up with the speed and advancement of the digital world, but the truth is they will always be at least one step behind. Each and every day, the Internet is advancing and changing; the progress from 2010 to 2016 is significant. But, how many years will it take to establish regulations and how will the internet and web accessibility evolve by the time new rules are published? The longer the DOJ puts off publishing rules to establish web accessibility regulations, the more they are leaving public and government entities to figure it out on their own, consequently leaving them vulnerable to questionable lawsuits. The best advice for businesses and companies operating online is not to wait for the DOJ to publish regulations, but proactively make their website accessible by following current accessibility guidelines and constantly testing their website for accessibility errors using AuditGenie™.