Web accessibility has become a popular topic across Washington State in recent years as user expectations evolve and recently introduced legislation comes into effect.
Web accessibility standards ensure everyone has equal access to information. This is important for municipalities as their citizens often don't have the option to get the information they are looking for from a different source. Accessibility standards also set a legal bar for agencies to meet.
Ensuring that a local government website meets accessibility standards, then, is not only the right thing to do; it also protects local governments from legal action being taken against them. This is why it's important for state agencies in Washington to familiarize themselves with legislation pertaining to web accessibility.
Does Washington have accessibility legislation in place?
State agencies in Washington are dictated by three main pieces of legislation regarding accessibility: Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act (29 U.S.C. 794d), the Americans with Disability Act, and Washington State's Accessibility Policy 188.
Adopted in 2019, Accessibility Policy 188 establishes the expectation that people with disabilities have access to and use of information and data, and that they can be provided access to the same services and content that is available to persons without disabilities — unless providing direct access is not possible due to technical or legal limitations.
What do we have to do to be compliant?
Policy 188 is outlined in five main points:
- All covered technology — including websites, web-based applications, software systems, and electronically published documents — must be accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities, either directly or by supporting the use of assistive technology.
- Where a covered technology is not able to be brought into compliance, the system or content owner is responsible to provide equivalent access for individuals with disabilities.
- Agencies must identify an information technology accessibility coordinator to be the key contact regarding the agency's accessibility plan and to support complaint resolution.
- Agencies must develop policies and processes to support and ensure compliance with this policy and the associated standard.
- Agencies must develop, implement and maintain an Accessibility Plan that identifies how the agency will ensure new covered technologies are accessible and the plan for making existing covered technologies accessible.
Bonus tip: Consider forming an accessibility committee to maintain compliance and consistently improve your accessibility!
The full policy can be read online on the Office of the Chief Information Officer website.
In conjunction with Policy 188, Standard 188.10 — Minimum Accessibility Standard states that the minimum level of compliance for accessibility is Level AA compliance with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1. Levels like AA or AAA refer to the degree that a website's design, development and content ensure it is accessible to all users. Read this article to learn more about WCAG.
Upanup builds accessibility into each website we design and develop with the open-source Drupal CMS. We also provide services including accessibility training, audits, and website updates (learn more about Upanup's approach to accessibility). If you are ready to make the switch to an accessible website, get in touch with us today to get started.
To learn more about web accessibility, check out the following articles: