Virginia’s bold moves to expand digital accessibility

Topics:

  • Legal Intelligence
  • Legislation

Location:

  • Virginia
  • United States

Driving the news:

In February 2024, the Virginia House of Delegates passed Bill No. 1355, legislation that strengthens existing digital accessibility laws. If enacted, this means that the Code of Virginia will expand to cover more persons with disabilities, add a new section for accessibility governance and VPATs, and set requirements for state agencies, educational institutions, and procurement. The bill is now headed to the Senate for a vote.

On the books – expanding digital accessibility in the state’s education system:

Virginia has also made a series of moves to expand existing digital accessibility, particularly in public colleges, universities, and libraries. 

1. Higher education:

Virginia Tech, the state’s premier STEM-focused institution, has embarked on multiple initiatives that advance online accessibility. These include:

  • The establishment of an office dedicated to compliance with Section 508 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act, which deals with accessibility in public institutions. 
  • Starting to offer enhanced captioning services for multimedia content. 
  • The launch of a program called Ally for Canvas to ensure learning content is accessible.

2. Public schools:  

The move towards greater digital accessibility is not just on college campuses. 

  • The state has also established the Accessible Instructional Materials Center of Virginia (AIM-VA). 
  • The center provides accessible educational materials to students with disabilities enrolled in public schools, which ensures equal access to the curriculum.

3. Libraries: 

The Library of Virginia (LVA) is more committed to making digital content accessible to individuals with disabilities.

  • This commitment includes ensuring digital content meets the accessibility requirements of Section 508 and WCAG 2.0 Level AA. 
  • The LVA is in the process of remediating content posted before May 18, 2022.

What happens next:

Virginia House of Delegates Bill No. 1355 is now pending review from the Virginia Senate Committee on General Laws and Technology. If enacted, the bill will require public educational institutions, from kindergartens to colleges, to ensure that digital tools and services are accessible. This will involve changes to vendor requirements – requiring accessibility conformance reports like VPATs, and accessibility roadmaps for non-compliance. In public entities, the bill would require the appointment of digital accessibility coordinators in public entities, and establishing a process for addressing accessibility-related grievances. 

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