Rhode Island: smallest in the nation, large in web accessibility


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Driving the news- Rhode Island’s interest in promoting web accessibility:

In an ambitious move to enhance web accessibility, Rhode Island State Representative Camille F.J. Vella-Wilkinson (Democratic-District 21, Warwick) introduced House Bill 2024-H 7159 on January 11, 2024. This legislative effort is complemented by a sister bill, Senate Bill 2024-S 2037, introduced by Senator Linda L. Ujifusa (Democratic-District 11, Portsmouth, Bristol) in the Rhode Island Senate the following day.

Both bills seek to require websites operated by the state, state agencies, and other governmental entities to comply with WCAG 2.2 level AA by July 2026. If enacted, the bill will prioritize agencies that offer vital services such as healthcare, human services, open government, and benefits. 

Accessibility initiatives in Ocean State higher education:

  • Brown University has been working on enhancing its digital accessibility for at least a decade now. Its Digital Accessibility Group was founded in 2015 and is under the umbrella of the ADA Coordinator/Diversity Office, placing accessibility at the core of the university’s DEI policy. 
  • The state’s public colleges are also making the shift to digital accessibility. Rhode Island College, the oldest public higher education institution in the state, is committed to achieving WCAG 2.0 level AA compliance in accordance with the ADA and Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act.
  • The University of Rhode Island, the state’s public land-grant university, takes accessibility a step further by benchmarking itself against WCAG 2.1 level AA standards. 

The state’s 1.1 million retirees also benefit from accessibility initiatives:

Rhode Island has one of the largest retirement populations in the country, with 1.1 million people over the age of 65 – close to 20% of the state’s population. The Office for Healthy Aging offers accessible telephony devices and wireless gadgets for individuals with speech, hearing, or neuromuscular disabilities that keep them from using standard gadgets. 

Looking forward- the road to digital inclusion in Rhode Island:

As Rhode Island legislators and advocates await further action on these bills, the commitment to expanding digital accessibility remains clear. If enacted, this legislation will not only elevate Rhode Island’s web inclusivity but also serve as a model for other states to build a more accessible digital world for people with disabilities.

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