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DOJ proposes rule to improve online accessibility for people with disabilities

The Department of Justice (DOJ) is proposing a new rule aimed at improving access to state and local public services online for people with disabilities, the White House announced Tuesday. 

The proposed rule would establish technical standards — like captioning videos, adding text descriptions to images and making navigation more accessible — for state and local governments’ web and mobile app-based services, like voter registration, tax filing and registering for vaccines.

“As so many services have gone online in recent years, particularly in the wake of the pandemic, it is now more important than ever to ensure that there are clear standards for what state and local governments must do to make their online programs, services and activities accessible to people with disabilities,” said Vanita Gupta, associate attorney general, on a call with reporters.

“This issue affects the ability of disabled people to access court websites, public library services, information about police services, public school materials, voter registration information, public hospital services, parking apps, public transit schedules, public benefits information and so much more,” Gupta said. 

The White House said the standards in the proposed rule would help states and localities understand and meet their obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) — and would improve online access to state and local services for nearly 50 million Americans with hearing, vision, manual dexterity and cognitive disabilities.

The DOJ has sent a notice of proposed rulemaking under Title 2 of the ADA to the Federal Register, and the rule will be up for a window of public comment, Gupta said. The text of the proposed rule is not yet available.

The proposal comes as the administration marks the 33rd anniversary of the ADA, which bans discrimination against people with disabilities across employment, government services, schools, public accommodations, telecommunications and transportation.

President Biden said in a proclamation on the anniversary that the ADA has had a “profound impact” in the last three decades, “but we still have much more work to do” to protect disability rights.

“Disabled Americans are still three times less likely to have a job; and when they do, they often earn less for doing the same work. Voting locations, transit, and public spaces are too often inaccessible. And we need to continue building a culture that not only protects disability rights but also celebrates disability pride,” Biden said.

Source: The Hill

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