Senator Markey joins Senator Schatz and colleagues in urging the Justice Department to ensure the Americans with Disabilities Act applies to the internet

Senators call on DOJ to restart ADA rulemaking process to support online protections for people with disabilities

Washington (July 11, 2022) – Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) today joined a group of senators led by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawai’i) to ask the Department of Justice (DOJ ) to support online protections for Americans with disabilities. The senators asked the DOJ to restart a rulemaking process under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to establish new rules ensuring that the ADA applies to the Internet.

“The United States has invested billions of dollars to develop technology and provide connectivity to all parts of the country, but that has little value for Americans who cannot access the online services on which we count so strongly”, the senators wrote to Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke, who heads the DOJ’s civil rights division. “When Congress enacted the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, the Internet and digital technologies were in their infancy. More than thirty years later, these technologies are now ubiquitous and we rely on them for our business. like communicating with friends and family, doing business, accessing government resources and getting health care New rules are needed to ensure people with disabilities have equal access to the digital world.

In addition to Senator Markey, the letter led by Senator Schatz was also signed by Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Bob Casey (D-Penn.), Patty Murray ( D-Wash.), Ben Ray Lujan (DN.M.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Sheldon Whitehouse (DR.I. ) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

In their letter, the senators cited a study analyzing the top one million websites that found the overwhelming majority of those websites were inaccessible in one way or another to people with disabilities. More than 4,000 cases were filed in federal and state courts alleging ADA compliance last year, but their verdicts remain uncertain without DOJ regulation.

The full text of the letter follows and is available here.

Dear Assistant Attorney General Clarke:

We are writing to urge the Department of Justice to restart the rulemaking process under Titles II and III of the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) and ensure it includes protections to end to the continued exclusion of people with disabilities from the Internet. The United States has invested billions of dollars to develop technology and provide connectivity to all parts of the country, but that is of little value to Americans who cannot access the online services we rely on. so strongly.

The ADA is historic civil rights legislation that guarantees people with disabilities an equal right to employment, business, and government services. Unfortunately, the digital world has not granted these protections compatible with the physical world. An analysis of the million most visited websites revealed that the vast majority of them are inaccessible in one way or another. Even the biggest and most successful online businesses have failed to incorporate basic features, such as alt text, to make their products accessible.

The Department of Justice has the power and ability to initiate regulation and make rules that make it clear that the ADA applies to the Internet. We appreciate the ministry’s stated position on the issue and the recently released guidelines on “Web Accessibility and ADA”. However, without Department rules, courts have had differing interpretations of when and how the ADA should apply to the Internet. More than 4,000 cases were filed in federal and state courts alleging ADA compliance in 2021, but their verdicts are uncertain without Department regulations.

As you know, regulations similar to the ones we urge you to prepare were launched in 2010 under the Obama administration, but the rules were never released and the Trump administration withdrew the proposed regulations. It is critical that the Department reinvigorate rulemaking and include strong protections clarifying the ADA’s applicability to the Internet. People with disabilities can no longer afford to wait for the Ministry to assert their civil rights.

When Congress enacted the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, the Internet and digital technologies were in their infancy. More than thirty years later, these technologies are now ubiquitous and we rely on them for our daily activities, such as communicating with friends and family, conducting business, accessing government resources and obtaining health care. New rules are needed to ensure people with disabilities have equal access to the digital world.

Thank you for your attention to this important subject.

Sincerely,

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