Care about Digital Access? Let the U.S. Government Know

u-turn road sign

The United States Department of Justice needs to hear that web accessibility regulations matter to disabled people. Can you help? This post will explain how.

You can also jump to a Simplified Summary of this Document, a feature of LFLegal.com designed to meet WCAG Success Criteria 3.1.5 (a WCAG 2.0 AAA Reading Level requirement).

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Background

As readers of this website know, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) is thinking about adopting web accessibility regulations. And the agency has been thinking for a long time. First announced in 2010, there has been delay after delay and we still do not have any regulations. The Americans with Disabilities Act already requires both public and private sector web access, but regulations are needed to raise awareness and stop the excuses.

Now we all have a chance to tell the DOJ what we think. This past April, the DOJ announced it was starting over again in its plans to adopt specific accessibility requirements for public sector websites. The agency withdrew its 2010 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and issued the awkwardly titled Supplemental Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, or SANPRM.

The move was a giant step backward in the quest to obtain public sector web regulations, which is why this post is illustrated with a big U-Turn sign in a road that stretches out to the horizon. You can read more about this delay and others in the Spring 2016 Digital Accessibility Legal Update on this website.

The new SANPRM asks 123 questions about web accessibility. You can read them all in the Supplemental Notice about public sector web accessibility. But you don’t have to read them all, or even answer any particular one. The most important thing people who care about full digital equality and inclusion can do is tell the government why public sector web accessibility matters. Here’s how

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What to say in Comments

Comments need not be fancy or long. The most important thing is to tell the government in your own words why public sector digital access matters. Think about how you use (or would like to use) government websites and mobile apps, and explain what happens when access barriers get in the way. Do you miss video content because there are no captions? Can you navigate to the information you need without a mouse? Does your screen reader software allow you full access to site content and features?

Here are some examples of government sites to get you thinking; there are hundreds of others.

  • Voting websites with candidate information, polling hours, or absentee ballots
  • online content of public schools and public colleges and universities
  • Emergency service websites that tell you where to go and what to do in an emergency
  • Public library websites
  • 3-1-1 websites where you can report local issues and get information
  • State and local transportation websites that offer bus schedules and service updates
  • Criminal justice sites. A blind mother recently needed to pursue legal claims because she could not access the local jail website to sign up to visit her son who was in jail.
  • Parks and recreation websites

Do you need access to these types of government sites and others? In 2016 no one should have to explain why access is needed now, but the comment period is open and the government needs to hear from disabled web users.

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How to File Comments

Comments can be filed directly with the federal government, or people can send comments to advocacy organizations who are collecting comments for submission. Here are the options. If you know of others, let me know and I will add to this list

  • File online directly with the federal government through the comment page for the ADA public sector proposed web regulations.
  • Send comments to the American Council of the Blind (ACB) and the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) for forwarding to the Department of Justice by sending an email to Comments@AFB.net. Read ACB’s statement about the delayed regulations.
  • Send comments to the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) for inclusion in a letter to the Department of Justice by completing the NFB web regulation comment webform. Read the NFB post about the public sector web regulations.
  • Send comments to the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) by sending an email to nad.info@nad.org.
  • Comments can also be sent directly to the U.S government the old-fashioned way, by US mail, overnight delivery, or even hand-delivery. If you are not using the website or sending through an advocacy organization as explained above, you must include the official identifier for this regulation, which is: RIN 1190-AA65 (or Docket ID No. 128).
    • Regular U.S. mail: Disability Rights Section, Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice, P.O. Box 2885, Fairfax, VA 22031- 0885
    • Overnight, courier, or hand delivery: Disability Rights Section, Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice, 1425 New York Avenue NW., Suite 4039, Washington, DC 20005
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When to File Comments

Originally due in August, comments are now due on Friday October 7, 2016

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Who to Call with Questions

The government has provided the following phone numbers if people have questions about the commenting process:

  • Rebecca Bond, Chief, Disability Rights Section, Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice, at (202) 307-0663 (voice or TTY). This is not a toll-free number.
  • Information may also be obtained from the Department’s toll-free ADA Information Line at (800) 514-0301 (voice) or (800) 514-0383 (TTY).

People can also contact the organizations listed above that are collecting comments.


Let’s flood the government with comments and let’s get digital accessibility regulations once and for all.

Simplified Summary

This post is about possible federal regulations about making the web work for disabled people.  The Department of Justice has made a proposal about accessible public sector websites.  The public can comment on the proposal until October 7, 2016.  People with disabilities who need government websites should file comments about how important access is.  Some examples of government websites are about voting,  parks, emergencies, and libraries.   Comments about the importance of online access can be submitted on line.  The phone number to call with any questions is:  (800) 514-0301 (voice) or (800) 514-0383 (TTY). [Back to top of this post]