DOJ’s unexpected announcement further delays the much-anticipated rules regarding accessibility of government/public (and later private) websites, but indicates an open-mindedness to consider further public comment on the government’s direction and accessibility issues, and provides a new public comment period.
Website owners and operators have been eagerly awaiting the US Department of Justice’s (DOJ’s) expected pronouncement of disability access rules for websites under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In a surprise announcement on April 28, however, the DOJ abruptly withdrew its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on website accessibility under Title II of the ADA, which applies to state and local government entities. The DOJ also issued a Supplemental Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (SANPRM) to solicit public comments on what the Title II website accessibility regulations should contain. The DOJ’s actions mean that public entities (as well as private entities hoping to get a sense of what the Title III website accessibility regulations might require) will have to wait longer for the promised guidance. Significantly, however, this delay provides public and private entities an opportunity to offer their input.
Under the NPRM, the comment period for final regulations was set to end in April 2016, but the recently issued SANPRM starts the comment process anew. While the wait for final rules has been extended, the picture of what the rules will include is becoming clearer. The public comments that the DOJ is soliciting—such as on the technical requirements for websites and the costs and benefits of particular proposals—will be used to fashion proposed regulations for a new NPRM as a prelude to issuing final regulations, which should provide a good picture of what the NPRM will look like for private entities that are “public accommodations” under the ADA.
In its SANPRM, the DOJ seeks comments on the following proposals and issues, among others:
While the DOJ’s SANPRM addresses the Title II public entity regulations, it will affect private entities in at least two ways: First, certain private entities contract with public entities, which frequently require their vendors to comply with the Title II rules. More broadly, the DOJ is expected to use the Title II regulations as a template for future Title III regulations. For this reason, private entities should consider submitting comments in response to the Title II SANPRM.
Written comments must be postmarked, and electronic comments submitted, within 90 days of the SANPRM’s publication in the Federal Register. Morgan Lewis expects to prepare comments for various entities. Please contact us if you would like to discuss submitting comments.
If you have any questions or would like more information on the issues discussed in this LawFlash, please contact any of the following Morgan Lewis lawyers:
Douglas T. Schwarz
Christopher K. Ramsey
David B. Salmons
Christopher J. Banks