Digital Accessibility Law Or Snake Oil

Information and knowledge are powerful. But what if you can’t access it even when protected by law?

A large, colorful puzzle representing website development, with pieces labeled Hosting, Software Platform, and Development. A separate piece, Accessibility, is trying to fit in a gap but isn't fitting.

A new bill was signed into law in New York (S3114A) that requires all state agencies to comply with the most current version of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).

Great! Grand! Wonderful!

Thank you, Senator Mannion, however, your bill amendment has significant gaps that prevent any New York State agency from successfully executing on this promise, this law, you’ve brought forth for New Yorkers.

Where’s the gaps? Accountability. Oversight. Consequences. They are completely missing.

New York State Senator John W. Mannion represents the 50th Senate District, serves as the Chairman of the Committee on Disabilities, and has done tremendous things for the state of New York, but New Yorkers are hoping for something more Senator Mannion. A bill that actually creates change rather than perpetuates the status quo.

“We found out the hard way. Many vendors claim to be accessible but are not.”

That’s what a team managing the digital accessibility compliance of multiple NYS state digital assets said.

To break it down, to bring a government website or mobile app to fruition, there’s three large components needed.

  1. Hosting.

    Hosting is the infrastructure that allows your application or data to be stored and accessed. It can be on physical servers at your business (known as “on-prem”) or in the cloud on virtual servers. Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform are examples of hosting providers.

  2. Software Platform.

    Software platforms serve as the foundational layer providing the environment in which your application will be built on and run. It could be a web server, a database management system, an application framework, or a complete cloud platform.

  3. Development of the Website or Application.

    This is the process of writing code, designing the user interface, and integrating various components and services into the final product of the website or application. There’s frontend development (what users use), backend development, databases, APIs, and other services like authentication and payment processing.

Big Companies Expand Services Affecting Accessibility Compliance

Many big companies now have expanded their service offerings to cover 2 or 3 of these areas. For example:

Amazon Web Services (AWS) offers a wide range of services including hosting and application development, but initially started as a cloud infrastructure service.

Microsoft’s Azure provides cloud hosting and services for building, deploying, and managing applications. They’re much deeper integrated into US businesses than Office and Exchange.

Google Cloud Platform (GCP) offers cloud hosting services along with a suite of tools and services for application development. Again, Google is everywhere.

Why is this important?

I’m not saying these vendors do, but the hugest household names in tech continue selling software platforms (Number 2 from above) that make it impossible to build accessible websites and applications on top of.

Further, when the vendor actually admits their platform inhibits any website or application to achieve compliance as a result of their software platform, it can take over a year for the feature request to be implemented. We’re still waiting!

Illustration of a courtroom with representatives of Big Tech companies standing before a stern looking judge. The backdrop features elements of a website with accessibility issues.

Why does digital accessibility for people with disabilities get deprioritized?

Because they may be too busy executing Big Tech’s product roadmaps and developing new, shiny features…

Will those new developments too be inaccessible?

You can read the changes to the New York State policy on digital accessibility at the link below, but what are your thoughts?

Should 1. Accountability; 2. Oversight; and 3. Consequences be required for laws designed to ensure accessibility for everyone?

What do you think needs to be done? Please share your comments below!

Read more about the changes in the “law” here:

https://bit.ly/NYSDigitalA11y

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