Announces new proposed rule ahead of 33rd anniversary of the ADA that would improve online access to state and local services for nearly 50 million people with vision, hearing, cognitive, and manual dexterity disabilities.
For more than three decades, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has been a driving force in moving America closer to the promise of equal opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency for the 61 million individuals with disabilities in our country. Because of the ADA and its protections against discrimination in public accommodations, employment, transportation, and community living, millions of people with disabilities have grown up with the promise of the same rights and chances as their peers without disabilities — and our communities, our economy, and our country are all stronger as a result.
Despite the important progress made under the ADA, many people with disabilities cannot access web or mobile-based state and local services—such as voter registration, filing taxes, applying for critical social services, accessing vital records, registering for vaccines, and taking online courses. This lack of accessibility has led unequal access to critical services for millions of Americans. As most services turned online during the pandemic, access disparities worsened. Deaf and hard of hearing people could not understand video messages from governors and mayors due to lack of captioning and American Sign Language interpretation. Community college students with certain disabilities, such as manual dexterity disabilities, could not properly navigate online course content.
That’s why tomorrow, in recognition of the 33rd Anniversary of the ADA, the Biden-Harris administration is taking new steps to strengthen the ADA and improve online accessibility to state and local services for the nearly 50 million people with disabilities with vision, hearing, cognitive, and manual dexterity disabilities.
New Biden-Harris administration Rule to Improve Online Accessibility:
The Department of Justice (DOJ) is proposing a new rule that would establish accessibility standards for state and local governments’ web and mobile app-based services. This proposed rule will better enable state and local governments to meet their ADA obligation to provide equal access to their services, programs, and activities for people with disabilities. The proposed rule suggests clear technical standards, like including text descriptions of images so people using screen readers can understand the content, providing captions on videos, and enabling navigation through use of a keyboard instead of a mouse for those with limited use of their hands. Clearer standards will both ensure that people with disabilities can access vital services and make it easier for states and localities to understand their ADA obligations.
The proposed rule will move us toward a more inclusive nation through equal access to crucial state and local services. It will help ensure that students with disabilities can access course content for the courses they enroll in, including higher level math and science. It will improve voter registration websites so that voters with disabilities can register independently. And it will help people with disabilities commute to work by helping them access bus and train information online.
Previous Administration Actions to Support People with Disabilities
Tomorrow’s announcement follows a series of historic investments through President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act to strengthen accessible infrastructure, provide affordable internet, expand access to health care, and increase access to educational and job opportunities for Americans with disabilities. And it builds upon the Administration’s broader agenda to achieve a more inclusive, accessible, and equitable country for people with disabilities. In the past year, the Administration has been:
- Investing in Accessible Infrastructure
- Accessible Rail Stations. The Federal Transit Authority’s All Stations Accessibility Program, established by BIL, has awarded $686 million in funding to 15 projects in 9 states to increase the number of rail stations that meet or exceed ADA standards.
- Accessibility of Electric Vehicle Network. Last summer, the U.S. Access Board developed design recommendations for accessible electric vehicle charging stations, the foundation for ensuring access to new forms of transportation.
- Delivering Internet for All, including People with Disabilities
- Affordable Broadband. In June, the Department of Commerce announced $42.5 billion in grants to states to ensure everyone in American has affordable, reliable high-speed internet. This is especially important for people with disabilities who often rely heavily on the internet to access basic services.
- Communications Services for Incarcerated People with Disabilities. In September 2022, the Federal Communications Commission took action to expand access to telecommunications relay services and direct video communications for incarcerated people with communication disabilities.
- Accessibility of Virtual Meeting Platforms. On June 8, the Federal Communications Commission voted to require video conferencing platforms like Zoom, WebEx, and Microsoft Teams to incorporate accessibility like captioning and display of sign language interpreters.
- Supporting Community Living and Employment
- Care as Infrastructure. On April 18, the President signed an Executive Order on Increasing Access to High-Quality Care and Supporting Caregivers. The Executive Order included more than 50 directives to agencies, including to expand home-based care for veterans with disabilities, improve pay for direct support workers, and ensure access to home and community-based services (HCBS).
- Transition from Education to Employment. The Department of Education (ED) is increasing employment among youth with disabilities through their Pathways to Partnerships Project, which will provide an estimated $224 million to improve pre-employment transition services for students through vocational rehabilitation, state and local education agencies, and centers for independent living.
- Nondiscrimination in Housing. The Department of Housing and Urban Development released an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to update its Section 504 regulation and invite public input on accessible design, websites and other technology, auxiliary aids, and services including assistive technologies.
- Expanding Access to Health Care
- Easier Enrollment in Medicaid. In August 2022, CMS issued a proposed rule that would reduce red tape and simplify applications, verifications, enrollment, and renewals for health care coverage through Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. This proposed rule will help ensure continuity of services for children and adults with disabilities and reduce paperwork.
- Access to Services at School. On May 18, HHS and ED took action to make it easier for schools to provide critical health care services, especially mental health services, for millions of students across the nation through a new regulation to streamline Medicaid billing protections at school and a comprehensive guide to billing Medicaid for schools.
- Reforming Public Charge. So that immigrants and their U.S. citizen and non-U.S. citizen family members can access important government services to keep their families safe and healthy, the Department of Homeland Security finalized a regulation on how it determines whether noncitizens are inadmissible to the United States because they are likely to become a public charge.
- Responding to COVID-19
- Improving Indoor Air Quality. The Administration continues to promote the importance of indoor air quality to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and other airborne diseases, protect against outdoor air pollutants such as smog and wildfire smoke, and decrease the number of environmental triggers for conditions like asthma and allergies. In May, CDC updated its guidance on ventilation in buildings to promote better indoor air quality.
- Addressing Long COVID. As announced last August, HHS will create an Office of Long COVID Research and Practice. This office will coordinate the whole-of-government response to the long-term impacts of COVID-19, as directed by the April 2022 Presidential memorandum on Addressing the Long-Term Effects of COVID-19.