The California Attorney General’s final proposed regulations under CCPA (“Regulations”) have been submitted, and pending approval by the California Office of Administrative Law, will soon become enforceable by law. One often overlooked requirement of the CCPA is the obligation of covered businesses to provide notices that are “reasonably accessible.” All drafts of the Regulations have provided more detail about the accessibility requirement contained in the CCPA, and the final Regulations make clear that for notices provided online, businesses must follow generally recognized industry standards, such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, version 2.1 (WCAG) from the World Wide Web Consortium. While companies have largely focused on updating the language or substance of their notices to comply with CCPA, this requirement as to form has, by and large, slipped through the cracks, but is certain to generate some discussion (if not litigation) in coming months.
By way of background, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires, among other things, that places of “public accommodation” remove barriers to access for individuals with disabilities. While this has long been considered the rule for physical establishments, including privately-owned, leased or operated facilities like hotels, restaurants, retail merchants, health clubs, sports stadiums, movie theaters, and so on, virtual accessibility has been much less consistent, and generally the exception rather than the norm. In fact, web accessibility hardly ever appears on businesses’ radars, due perhaps to a very short-sighted perception of what, in fact, qualifies as a disability as well as a lack of overall guidance.
Web accessibility means ensuring that websites, mobile applications, and other virtual platforms can be used by everyone, including those with disabilities, such as impaired vision. However, what exactly is required is a source of confusion. In 2019, the Department of Justice (DOJ), which is responsible for establishing regulations pursuant to the ADA, withdrew regulations that had been drafted for website accessibility, and has since yet to promulgate any such regulations. This has left courts with the task of determining how and to what extent web accessibility is required under the ADA when it comes to businesses that offer goods and services online, with varying results.
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