California Assembly Bill 2917 and Website Accessibility Requirements

California Assembly Bill 2917 and

Website Accessibility Requirements

By: Melanie De Marco, Esq.

January 10, 2023

Some of you that own businesses or run websites have been receiving demand letters in the mail indicating that your websites are not accessible for persons with disabilities. Some of the more unscrupulous senders even threaten lawsuits. With this trend continuing to rise, California enacted AB 2917 on September 30, 2022 to, among other things, gather information about complaints alleging that an internet website is not accessible, and develop educational modules that would educate businesses on website accessibility requirements.

While you may know that any public spaces of your business must comply with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations, it may be a surprise to you that your website is another place you need to accommodate those with disabilities.

Although the California Commission on Disability Access previously worked with other state agencies to develop educational materials and information for use by businesses to understand their obligations to provide disability access, under the new AB 2917, these education materials must now address compliance with accessibility standards and requirements for internet websites as well.

Title III of the ADA requires that every owner, lessor, or operator of a “place of public accommodation” provide equal access to users who meet ADA standards for disability. Although the regulations are silent on whether a website is a “place of public accommodation,” ADA-based lawsuits regarding accessibility (or inaccessibility) of websites have been more successful than ever recently and defending even a frivolous lawsuit can be costly.

When evaluating these types of lawsuits, courts are looking to a standard identified as WCAG 2.1. It may sound scary and technical, but it is a good standard to keep in mind while developing your website to help avoid costly and time-consuming issues down-the-line. Simply put, you can take some easy steps now to ensure your website is perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. If you use a webmaster, they should be aware of these guidelines.

We’ve also compiled some tips for you to perform a quick review of your website. When looking at your site, make sure it is:

1. Perceivable: a website is perceivable if its content and user interface can be perceived by one or more senses.

  • Objects on your website other than text should have some sort of descriptor.
  • Provide captions and other alternatives for multimedia.
  • Create content that can be presented in different ways, including by assistive technologies, without losing meaning.
  • Make it easier for users to see and hear content. Watch out for aggressive patterns, fonts, or colors and text that is difficult to read.

2. Operable: A website is considered operable if all users can navigate the website effectively.

  • Make all functionality available from a keyboard by allowing keyboard shortcuts to be utilized on the website.
  • Give users enough time to read and use content.
  • Do not use content that causes seizures.

3. Understandable: A website is considered understandable if both its content and user interface are easy to understand.

  • Make sure that your website is navigable, so that the user can easily find what they are looking for and get back to your home page.
  • Try to avoid having broken links that don’t work or lead to nowhere.

4. Robust: A website is robust if standard web browsers and assistive technologies can interpret it.

  • If your website can only be used from Internet Explorer, it is probably not considered “robust.”

Last tips to remember:

Making your website more compliant doesn’t have to be complicated. It may be something as simple as choosing different colors or choosing an easier-to-read font.

Whether you work with a vendor for your website or have an internal team member that handles the site, be sure that they are aware of the WCAG 2.1 standards and have them keep these tips in mind. This is especially important when promoting events or other time sensitive promotions so that you will not have anyone missing out on your latest sale, product, or community event because they were unable to use your website.

If you choose to manage your own webpage, there are several free accessibility checkers online.

The information presented in this Article is not to be taken as legal advice. Every person’s situation is different. If you have received a letter threatening legal action or are facing a legal issue of any kind, get competent legal advice in your state immediately so that you can determine your best options.

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