For those eagerly anticipating word from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) on the proposed regulations governing website accessibility requirements and technical standards for the websites of both places of public accommodation and state and local governments, the wait continues. According to a recently released Unified Agenda, the proposed public accommodation website regulations, which were previously slated to be issued in April 2014, have now been delayed to March 2015. The estimated date of issuance for the state and local government website regulations has also been pushed back to August 2014.
In the meantime, public accommodations, government entities, and individuals with disabilities alike continue to await official guidance from DOJ on this hot-button topic, as almost every government entity and place of public accommodation (including, but not limited to, retail stores, restaurants, entertainment and sports venues, hotels, medical facilities, and more) maintains a website that will likely require at least some level of modifications to meet whatever standards are ultimately adopted. While some entities are taking a “wait and see” approach before moving forward with the process of making their website accessible to individuals with visual, aural, and other types of disabilities until they are certain regarding what the regulations will ultimately require, such an approach is risky in light of the fact that private plaintiffs and advocacy groups are currently bringing lawsuits and filing complaints with regulatory agencies. In addition, both DOJ and state and local agencies are presently pursuing heightened accessibility for websites and mobile applications as evident in a number of recent settlement agreements.
As the issuance of final regulations will only heighten focus on website accessibility (and set an official standard for compliance review), government agencies and places of public accommodation are well advised to begin reviewing their current websites and planning ahead for any changes that may be necessary to ensure accessibility for individuals with disabilities.