WebAIM - Web Accessibility In Mind

Colorado Mandates Accessibility for State and Local Government Websites

Colorado House Bill 1110 (PDF), signed by Governor Polis on June 30, mandates that state and local government websites adhere to the “most recent” version of WCAG by July 1, 2024–and appropriates $312,922 to support conformance efforts during fiscal year 2021-22.

Under the bill, individuals with disabilities who suffer discrimination by a non-conformant website may bring a civil suit and, if successful, receive $3,500 per violation, per plaintiff.

Borrowing from the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) principles, the bill defines “accessible” as, “perceivable, operable, and understandable digital content that enables an individual with a disability to access the same information, engage in the same interactions, and enjoy the same services offered to other individuals, with the same privacy, independence, and ease of use as exists for individuals without a disability.”

Here at WebAIM, we applaud both the mandate and its funding! Now that monies are available, though, the question will arise as to how to best invest them. The bill text merely provides that:

For the 2021-22 state fiscal year, $312,922 is appropriated to the office of the governor for use by the office of information technology. This appropriation is from the general fund and is based on an assumption that the office will require an additional 0.9 FTE. To implement this act, the office may use this appropriation for enterprise solutions.

Simply distributing these funds equally among Colorado’s 22 state agencies and 334 local government entities (municipalities and counties) would come out to about $879 each–not enough even to fund one work week of a web developer’s bug-patching time. Slicing the pie this thin wouldn’t give anyone a satisfying mouthful. If the “enterprise solution” being contemplated is just an automated reporting tool, this would also be an incomplete solution–although it would help identify problems, it would not build expertise among those charged with fixing those problems.

Merely funding a bug-patching exercise or a statewide accessibility audit misses the point. If we patch it today, we’re likely to create the same barriers tomorrow, unless we understand why we patched it today. So, instead of thinking of it as bug-patching, WebAIM believes that it would be beneficial to use some of these funds to support large group training seminars. This way, stakeholders can learn how to build and maintain websites that are in harmony with WCAG, and better appreciate the online experiences of their citizens who have disabilities. This will empower them to not only remediate today’s problems but avoid them in the future.

Perhaps these large-scale training events could be hosted by the various “Council of Governments” organizations peppered around the state (DRCOG, NWCCOG, PPACG, SCCOG, SWCCOG, etc.), with each of their constituent governments sending a representative to learn and absorb. This person could then return home as the newly minted accessibility expert on their team, sharing that knowledge further.

We are glad to see Colorado taking this meaningful step forward and look forward to seeing their progress!

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