Despite a 5 year delay in the release of new rules around web accessibility regulations, the DOJ is standing behind Title III of the ADA & Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act to enforce website accessibility for individuals with disabilities.
Recent filings by the National Association of the Deaf against Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, highlight confusion around interpretations of the DOJ’s decision to revise web accessibility standards.
“In the two cases, the NAD complained that Harvard and MIT had failed to caption all of the videos posted on their websites. The cases do not relate to those videos that enrolled students are required to view as part of their course of study, but rather, videos of speeches given at the universities, campus events, and lectures posted by the faculty. These videos included, for example, campus talks by President Obama and Bill Gates; educational videos made by MIT students for use by K-12 students; “self-help” talks; and regular podcasts such as the “HBR IdeaCast” by the Harvard Business Review. Both universities had boasted that their websites’ content was available free to anyone with an Internet connection.” – Olsen, T. “Website Accessibility: Department of Justice’s Filings in Lawsuits Give Warnings” Sherman & Howard, 16 Jul. 2015. Web. 24 Jul. 2015, DOJ’s Filings in Lawsuits Give Warnings
Unfortunately, the claims made by the universities were refuted by the DOJ. The DOJ filed formal statements of interest announcing that “even without any regulations or rules — Title III of the ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act already require that public accommodations’ websites be accessible to the disabled” – Olsen, T. “Website Accessibility: Department of Justice’s Filings in Lawsuits Give Warnings” Sherman & Howard, 16 Jul. 2015. Web. 24 Jul. 2015
The DOJ is doing its best to release new accessibility regulations before Spring of 2016.