Current California digital accessibility requirements
California has had strict digital accessibility laws for years. California plaintiffs have filed more digital accessibility lawsuits in the past few years than any other state– as many as 4 times the next-highest state. This is largely due to its strict Unruh Act, which protects its citizens from discrimination by imposing a $4000 (or more) penalty per occurrence on defendants, regardless of the state in which the defendant company is located.
AB 1757- All websites must be WCAG 2.1 compliant
But while the Unruh Act refers to digital accessibility only as an item under the umbrella of accessibility in general, new laws are being proposed that create clear guidelines for businesses to follow. This proposed law, called AB 1757, would require all organizations that are open to the public or otherwise subject to the Unruh Act to adhere to Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 Level AA. Companies that fail to meet WCAG 2.1 may face statutory damages of $4,000 “per occurrence,” attorneys’ fees, and injunctive relief.
Like the Unruh Act, AB 1757 would serve to protect California residents, so while this would be a California law, it will impact any company doing business in California. In an age where most businesses have websites through which they sell their products and services nationwide, this potential law will apply to businesses anywhere in the country.
Web Developers also responsible
Going one step further, AB 1757 will also penalize website developers for failing to provide companies with accessible websites. Companies rely on their outside website developers to build a website that meets best practices and laws. The new proposed law would hold both the company that owns the website and the website developers responsible for failure to comply. In addition, AB 1757 would allow website owners to pursue compensatory damages claims against website developers for website accessibility noncompliance.
No grace period
Most significantly, when if AB 1757 is enacted, it will become effective immediately. Many similar proposed laws allow time for organizations to implement changes and make their websites and content accessible before legal action is permitted. This proposed law makes inaccessible websites and their content legally actionable from day one.
California lawmakers have decided not to move forward this year, but have pushed decisions on AB 1757 to 2024. Businesses nationwide should be prepared to immediately meet WCAG 2.1 AA requirements as soon as next year.
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Nina comes to Equidox with years of sales and marketing experience from a variety of industries and holds a BS in Language Arts Education. Nina has a passion for words, storytelling, and information, which she believes everyone should have access to regardless of ability. After spending time as a teacher with a blind student, she became much more aware of the limitations and abilities of web accessibility, and how essential it is to those experiencing disabilities. “Being able to access information equally ensures that everyone has an equal opportunity for education, employment, and success in life.”