Sarbanes and Duckworth introduce bicameral legislation to help make websites and software applications accessible to Americans with disabilities
WASHINGTON, DC – Congressman John Sarbanes (D-Md.) and Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) introduced legislation to help remove significant barriers that Americans with disabilities continue to face when accessing to websites and software applications, which all Americans rely on for jobs, commerce, education, public services and all other aspects of society.
The Website and Software Application Accessibility Act would build on the promise of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) – passed more than 32 years ago – by requiring entities currently covered by the ADA , as well as commercial vendors, maintain websites and software applications that are accessible to Americans with disabilities. This legislation would also establish a clear accessibility standard as well as a technical assistance center and advisory committee to provide advice and guidance on how to develop and maintain accessible websites and apps. In addition, this bill would authorize a study on the effects of emerging technologies on the ability of people with disabilities to participate in society.
“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and long before, so many Americans relied on the internet to work from home, order household items and connect with loved ones – and yet, too many websites and apps remain nearly impossible for Americans with disabilities to use, excluding them from these experiences and opportunities,” said Senator Duckworth. “I am proud to introduce this legislation with Congressman Sarbanes to finally help make the web and other technologies more accessible to all users, including those in the disability community.”
“Digital innovation is only powerful if it is inclusive. As new and emerging technologies have been integrated into our daily lives, digital inaccessibility has prevented Americans with disabilities from accessing a wide range of essential health, education, employment, and other resources. To address this civil rights issue and address this long-standing inequity, we need uniform and consistent standards that define what true digital accessibility is and provide adequate mechanisms to enforce it,” said the member of the Sarbanes Congress. “The Website and Software Application Accessibility Act will require federal agencies to provide clear regulations to reduce barriers to web accessibility and help businesses and state and local governments to comply. Senator Duckworth and I are pleased to introduce this bill with input from disability rights advocates to take an important step toward equity and inclusion for all Americans.
“While we have been successful in asserting the right of blind Americans to live and work in our increasingly digital world, individual complaints and agreements simply cannot keep pace with the expansion and evolution technology, and entities that wish to effectively serve customers with disabilities. ask for advice,” said Mark Riccobono, president of the National Federation of the Blind. “We commend Senator Duckworth and Rep. Sarbanes for introducing this legislation, and we urge their colleagues to act quickly on this common-sense proposal that will finally close the gap caused by inaccessible technologies and clarify and enforce what laws and policies on disability of our country require. ”
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“This bill is as important as the introduction of the ADA and shows the cooperation and support of the disability community,” said Tony Coelho, former Democratic congressman from California and author of the ADA. “As President Bush said when signing the ADA – ‘the walls of exclusion must be broken down’ – this is another step in that direction.”
“This bill builds on the strength and success of the ADA and dramatically improves access to the digital world by covering, for the first time, commercial vendors who actually build websites and mobile apps,” said John L. Wodatch, disability rights attorney and ADA’s principal regulatory architect.
While the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has long maintained that the ADA covers websites and other technologies that are essential to accessing a business or agency and its services, the DOJ has yet to release accessibility regulations covering websites and apps to accommodate Americans with disabilities. . Additionally, despite existing DOJ guidelines that websites must be ADA compliant, they still do not address apps and software in “smart” devices, such as cars, refrigerators, tractors, telephones, thermostats, etc.
Additionally, courts have not always interpreted if and how the ADA covers websites. While this legislation does not change the ADA, it does affirm that the ADA requires websites and applications used by certain companies to be accessible and usable by Americans with disabilities and that this requirement applies regardless of whether the business has a physical location or simply exists online.
The Website and Software Application Accessibility Act also directs the DOJ and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to issue regulations that help ensure Americans with disabilities have equal access to websites and applications. as people without disabilities.
Along with Sarbanes and Duckworth, this legislation is co-sponsored by: US Senators Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), and Ed Markey (D-Mass.).
In addition to the National Federation of the Blind, Tony Coelho and John Wodatch, this legislation is supported by: Access Living, American Association of People with Disabilities, American Council of the Blind, American Foundation for the Blind, Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living, Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, Blinded Veterans Association, CommunicationFIRST, Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, Epilepsy Foundation of America, Hearing Loss Association of America, National Association of the Deaf, National Council on Independent Living, National Disability Institute, National Disability Rights Network , Paralyzed Veterans of America, Telecommunications for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Inc., The Arc, United Spinal Association and Vietnam Veterans of America.
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