By: Richard E. Ladner

On April 24, 2024, the United States Department of Justice issued a new regulation called the “Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability; Accessibility of Web Information and Services of State and Local Government Entities.”  In October 2023, the regulation was first announced in a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), and there ensued a 60-day period for public comment before the regulation was finalized. In September 2023, I wrote a short article in the CSTA Voice about the proposed regulation and pointed out a problem with the proposal about an exception to web accessibility for password-protected websites used in elementary and secondary education. This exception would allow curriculum and tool providers in K-12 CS education to avoid accessibility requirements by simply putting the curriculum and tools behind a password. I personally protested about this exception to the Department of Justice during the comment period. Perhaps some other CSTA members did the same.

I am happy to announce that the final regulation does not have that exception. In the Department of Justice’s own words in announcing the final regulation: 

In the NPRM, the Department proposed exceptions to the requirements …. for certain password-protected class or course content of public elementary, secondary, and postsecondary institutions.  For the reasons discussed in this section, the Department has decided not to include these exceptions… Accordingly, … password-protected course content will be treated like any other content and public educational institutions will generally need to ensure that that content complies with WCAG 2.1 Level AA …

Depending on the size of a school district, the regulation implementation should be in two or three years. Considering that teaching computer science uses websites and applications heavily, this regulation will have a large impact on K-12 CS education. Some curriculum and tool providers have already started the process of making their products accessible, which is good.  Some providers may want to look at what the State of Maryland has done to make its CS curriculum accessible in response to a state law about nonvisual access that was enacted in 2022.  

The new regulation is 76 pages in a three-column format, but the executive summary is much shorter. I don’t think it is necessary for CS teachers to read the regulation, but it would probably be a good idea to let their principals and district-level administrators know about it. 

Author’s note: Read more about how to prepare for these standards in “Preparing for New ADA Digital Accessibility Standards” from TCEA’s Matt Russell.