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The New DOJ Rule on Web Accessibility: What Educators Need to Know

Authors: Yerin Seung; info@ciddl.org

In today's digital age, accessibility is critical. As technology integration in education is getting more widespread, it is becoming more important to ensure all students, including those with disabilities, have equal access to digital learning resources. The Department of Justice (DOJ) recently introduced a new rule to enhance web accessibility. This blog post presents the summary and key points about this new DOJ rule and its implications for education.

Key Points for the New Rule

Overview of Requirements: The new rule mandates the adoption of WCAG 2.1 standards for web content and mobile applications. These standards provide a comprehensive framework of accessible digital content for users with various disabilities. The rule specifies technical requirements to ensure all covered content meets these accessibility standards.

Entities Affected: The rule applies to state and local government entities, including public schools, community colleges, and universities. Public hospitals, healthcare clinics, parks, libraries, and other public services must also comply with the new standards.

Compliance Dates: Compliance timelines vary based on the size and type of entity:

  • Entities with populations of 50,000 or more must comply by April 24, 2026.
  • Entities with populations under 50,000 and special district governments must comply by April 26, 2027.

Exceptions and Special Considerations: While the rule sets broad requirements, there are specific exceptions. Archived content, preexisting documents not currently used, and third-party content may be exempt. However, these exceptions are limited, and educational institutions must ensure that digital textbooks and password-protected course content comply with the rule.

Impact on Education Technology

Challenges and Costs: Implementing the new rule will have challenges. The DOJ estimates significant costs for K-12 and higher education institutions to remediate existing content. Technological and administrative efforts will also be needed to meet these new standards.

Benefits: Despite the challenges, the benefits are substantial. Improved accessibility will provide equal access to educational resources and a better user experience for students with disabilities. In the long term, compliance will enhance the overall quality of education in digital environments.

Steps for Educators and Technology

Preparation for Compliance: Educational institutions should begin by assessing their current web content and services. Conducting an accessibility audit will identify areas that need improvement. Integrating WCAG 2.1 standards into all new content and applications is crucial.

Working with Vendors: It is essential to ensure that vendors meet accessibility standards. When contracting for web services or digital content, include specific accessibility requirements in contracts and RFPs to guarantee compliance.

Ongoing Accessibility Efforts: Accessibility is not a one-time task but an ongoing effort. Regularly monitor and update web content to maintain compliance. Provide training for staff and educators on accessibility best practices to maintain efforts towards digital inclusivity.

Conclusion

The new DOJ rule marks a significant step towards digital inclusivity in education. By adopting and implementing WCAG 2.1 standards, educational institutions can guarantee that all students have equal access to digital resources, regardless of their abilities. Educators and technologists play a crucial role in this effort. Begin preparing for compliance to provide an accessible, inclusive educational environment for all.

Additional Resources

Associated material:

https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2024/04/24/2024-07758/nondiscrimination-on-the-basis-of-disability-accessibility-of-web-information-and-services-of-state

https://www.siia.net/new-doj-rule-on-ada-title-ii-and-its-impact-on-edtech-companies/

Staying informed and leading the way in making education accessible to every student!