by Daniel Parker, RDPFS Intern
“’Digital innovation is only as powerful as it is inclusive.’” That quote from Representative John Sarbanes is the message behind the Websites and Software Applications Accessibility Act. This bill, introduced on September 29, 2022 by Sarbanes in the House of Representatives and Senator Tammy Duckworth in the Senate, would require that websites and apps be made accessible to individuals with disabilities. It would mandate that the U.S. Department of Justice and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission establish a national framework for the accessibility of websites and software that can readily evolve along with future technological developments. As Senator Duckworth states, “’Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and well before, so many Americans relied on the Internet to work from home, order home goods and connect with loved ones — and yet, too many websites and apps remain nearly impossible to use by Americans with disabilities, barring them from these experiences and opportunities. I’m proud to introduce this legislation with Congressman Sarbanes to finally help make the web and other technology more accessible for all users, including those in the disability community.’” Sarbanes added: “’As new and emerging technologies have been incorporated into our daily lives, digital inaccessibility has prevented Americans with disabilities from reaching a broad range of health, education, employment and other critical resources. To address this civil rights issue and remedy this longstanding inequity, we need uniform, consistent standards that lay out what true digital accessibility is and provide adequate mechanisms to enforce it. The Websites and Software Applications Accessibility Act will require federal agencies to provide clear regulations for reducing barriers to web accessibility and help businesses and state and local governments work toward compliance.’” Several leading disability rights advocates provided input in the development of the bill, with the American Council for the Blind (ACB), the American Foundation of the Blind (AFB), the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN), and the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), commending Senator Duckworth and Representative Sarbanes for introducing the legislation, highlighting the support and collaboration of the disability community in preparing the draft. You can read much more about the bill in the write up in the ACB press release entitled Senator Duckworth and Representative Sarbanes Introduce Bill to Make Websites and Mobile Applications Accessible to Individuals with Disabilities.