On August 4, 2023, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) released proposed regulations for web and mobile app accessibility under Title II the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Title II covers the accessibility of state and local government programs, services, and activities for persons with disabilities. DOJ’s proposed regulations would establish the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), Version 2.1 at Conformance Level AA (WCAG 2.1 AA), as the technical standard for web and mobile app accessibility under ADA Title II while granting certain exceptions to compliance. One of those exceptions would cover password-protected or otherwise restricted access postsecondary course content; however, the exception includes limitations for when a relevant student pre-registers for a course (content would have to comply with WCAG 2.1 AA by the start of the course) and for when a student joins a course after the start of the term (content would have to comply within five business days of notification).
EDUCAUSE submitted comments on October 3, 2023, which was the final day of DOJ’s comment period. In consultation with members and a legal expert on the ADA, the association expressed support for the proposed technical standard but urged DOJ to make compliance with the then-pending WCAG 2.2 standard as well as possible future versions of WCAG a compliance/litigation safe harbor. EDUCAUSE argued that this approach would encourage institutions capable of adopting a newer standard more quickly to do so while avoiding potential problems and delays related to the notice-and-comment requirements of federal rulemaking. The association also suggested viable options to the rigid limitations on the exception for postsecondary course content that DOJ initially proposed, based on member feedback that the limitations failed to account for the realities of course offerings and registration from term to term. EDUCAUSE also stressed the need for DOJ to provide a longer compliance period for higher education institutions, as well as one that was less arbitrary and much more reflective of the higher education context.