Study exposes New York’s $40 billion digital accessibility challenge

Topics:

  • Regulation
  • Legislation
  • Lawsuits
  • Enforcement
  • UserWay Research

Location:

  • New York
  • United States

Driving the news- most New York state contractor and vendor websites don’t comply with new accessibility law:

New York’s Executive Law Section 170-F, aimed at ensuring digital accessibility on state contractor sites, is being widely disregarded, according to a recent study by UserWay. Passed at the end of May 2023, the law requires compliance with the latest Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).

UserWay Research has uncovered over 127,000 accessibility violations on the home pages of these sites, signaling a critical oversight and the urgent need for compliance. 

Key findings:

  • Among over 1,000 contractor and vendor websites, the number of WCAG level A, AA, and AAA violations per home page rose from 123,452 to 127,569, over the period from September 2023 to January 2024.
  • More websites saw an overall increase in WCAG level A and level AA violations than those where the number of violations diminished.
  • In Q4, even fewer websites achieved a UserWay Accessibility Score of 65 or higher – most contractor and vendor websites remained mostly inaccessible. 

What the experts are saying:

As Shira Grossman, UserWay’s VP of Legal Affairs says, “We track digital accessibility litigation across the country and New York is by far the hotbed of these digital accessibility lawsuits. New York State agencies responsible for renewing vendor contracts or entering into new contracts might effectively place a stop sign to companies that don’t comply with this rule.”

Disability rights advocate Assembly member Jo Anne Simon, the bill sponsor, said in a 2023 briefing on the law, “Technology has greatly opened up our worlds but also become a barrier in too many instances. We need to make websites accessible. Not only is it the law; it’s the right thing to do.”

Why it matters:

  • Today, there are around 1,600 active term contracts with New York State – representing a procurement value exceeding $40 billion in the 2022 fiscal year. Those contracts are now required to align their digital assets pertaining to their contracts with Section 170-F, including contracts covering commodities such as fuel and food, services like elevator maintenance, and technology, including computers and telecommunications.
  • The implications of this law extend beyond New York, setting a precedent for other states, and potentially even globally. 

170-F isn’t just a legal mandate; it’s a call to action for all businesses and agencies to ensure that their digital spaces are accessible to everyone.

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