Website accessibility lawsuits continue to be big business for plaintiffs’ attorneys, with thousands of lawsuits filed every year. Part of the problem is the lack of clear guidance from the government in this area, given that neither the Americans with Disabilities Act nor related state laws specifically address website accessibility or what (if anything) companies need to do when they code their websites.

In a statement issued last year, the Department of Justice stated that ​“existing technical standards provide helpful guidance concerning how to ensure accessibility of website features.” Among other things, DOJ pointed to the Web Content Accessibility (or ​“WCAG”) Guidelines that are incorporated into most settlements in this area. DOJ also stated that while ​“businesses must comply with the ADA’s requirements,” they ​“have flexibility in how they comply,” and can ​“choose” how to ensure accessibility. Unfortunately, DOJ did not elaborate on what that means.

This month, the DOJ announced a Rule which requires state and local governments to ensure their websites and mobile apps comply with the WCAG 2.1 AA Guidelines in two or three years, depending on the number of people in their jurisdictions. This Fact Sheet summarizes the major points. Although the Final Rule does not apply to privately or publicly-owned businesses and doesn’t shed any new light on the issues businesses face in this area, the development is worth noting because this Rule is likely to serve as a roadmap for the DOJ when (and if) it finally issues rules for private entities.