5 trends shaping digital accessibility in 2024

Topics:

  • Regulation
  • Legislation
  • Private Sector

Location:

  • United States

The big picture- a digital accessibility revolution:

The landscape of digital accessibility in the United States is undergoing a significant transformation in 2024, with federal and state initiatives paving the way for enhanced inclusivity for visually impaired individuals.

Why it matters:

In an era where digital interfaces are ubiquitous, ensuring they are accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities, is not just a matter of legal compliance but a step towards fostering an inclusive society. These measures not only mitigate legal risks but also save costs by integrating accessibility into technology from the get-go.

Driving the news: 5 pivotal trends:

1. Federal and state synergy:

The Department of Justice has proposed new, stricter digital accessibility standards for state and local governments, a first since the Americans with Disabilities Act 33 years ago. This change may take years to fully implement and enforce, but a number of states have already begun embarking on their own efforts towards implementing and enforcing greater accessibility. 

2. Enhanced public infrastructure accessibility:

In 2023, UserWay counted 8 states that proposed stronger policies to support accessibility (Delaware, Colorado, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island). In 4 states, executive actions or legislative proposals were successfully enacted. In the early months of 2024, 3 new legislative actions were proposed to expand access (RI, VA, and WI). 

3. Adopting WCAG:

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are becoming a cornerstone for states, providing a clear framework for website optimization to meet the diverse needs of users relying on assistive technologies. This includes screen readers, keyboard-only navigation, and more. 2 states have explicitly proposed WCAG standards, with more expected to follow suit. 

4. Contractor compliance:

States like New York and Virginia are taking significant steps to ensure that IT contractors and vendors adhere to accessibility standards, emphasizing the importance of accessible digital infrastructure.

5. Now hiring- digital accessibility officers:

In 2024, Massachusetts appointed its first Digital Accessibility Officer. This role is designed to enhance and promote digital accessibility and equity throughout the state. The officer will provide guidance on all matters related to digital accessibility and equity and will ensure that the state’s digital applications are fully operational and accessible to all residents. Massachusetts has become the fourth state in the U.S. to establish a Chief IT Accessibility Officer position.

The bottom line:

The concerted efforts at both the federal and state levels in 2024 are setting new benchmarks for digital accessibility, heralding a future where digital spaces are open and accessible to all, thereby fostering greater independence and inclusion for visually impaired individuals.

Related articles

The silhouettes of a group of 9 figures sit at a table in a conference room with floor to ceiling windows overlooking a skyline of skyscrapers at sunset
01 May 2024
Massachusetts rolls out digital accessibility initiatives
Profile image of Sarah Bard, a white woman with blond hair and a light purple blazer looking into the camera and smiling

Sarah Bard

Read the article