On March 14, New York City passed legislation requiring all of its government agencies to make their websites accessible to individuals with disabilities.
As the City’s largest employer, the New York City government recently passed legislation requiring all its government agencies to comply with web accessibility standards, following the requirements of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 AA. As part of the new law, City agencies must adopt a tentative plan to make their sites accessible within 6 months of the law passing (i.e. September 2016).
Agencies that want to adopt different accessibility standards may do so only under the guidance of experts in website design and after conducting a public hearing on the matter.
Why is this significant?
New York City’s mandate for accessible online content has far-reaching effects. It sets a precedent that other municipalities may follow—New York City took a proactive approach to web accessibility regulations instead of waiting for a federal mandate from the Department of Justice (DOJ), implementing its own standards and protocols. It also sets the stage for the City to require government contractors or businesses located within New York City to provide accessible online content to individuals with disabilities.
Although certainly a commendable action by the City of New York, the DOJ must issue rules for web accessibility standards before local and state governments begin taking action into their own hands, potentially causing issues for businesses that are subject to inconsistent regulations across borders.