Website and Software Applications Accessibility Act Introduced

This is a short post passing on the news that my wife (Laura Ruby) read about on NFB’s site today that Senators Duckworth (D-Ill.) and Sarbanes (D-Md.) introduced the Websites and Software Applications Accessibility Act (S. 4998) and (H.R. 9021) in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives yesterday.

This bill would require the Department of Justice and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to develop and enforce accessibility standards covering websites and digital technologies used by employers, places of public accommodation, state and local governments, and testing entities.

The bill is very controversial. For instance, it requires DOJ (and not the Access Board) to develop technical standards while sidestepping what those standards should look like (WCAG, anyone?). This is dangerous as I’ve found that it’s never a good idea to ask lawyers to do anything remotely technical. Plus, the current draft authorizes punitive damages for private plaintiffs, which certainly wouldn’t help the current flood of ADA web accessibility litigation.

I won’t take a position on any of these provisions and just let you read the bill itself. I will, however, predict that there is very little chance that this bill will ever become law. It’s not that I don’t agree with the idea that we need clarity around what companies and public sector entities need to do around web and digital accessibility; it’s just that this law isn’t the way to do it. Plus, it’s more than controversial enough that I can’t see it getting through the arduous legislative process.

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