Three words to describe 2016: what a year! So much happened in the last 12 months, but here we’ll focus on what has happened in the world of accessibility legislation in North America.
In November, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced (in the federal government's Unified Agenda) that it will be issuing a proposed rule for state and government websites in July 2017. (There was no date provided for the proposed rule for websites belonging to places of public accommodation.)
Also of interest: The DOJ had issued a Supplemental Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (SANPRM) in which it stated that the results of the rulemaking would “facilitate the creation of an infrastructure for web accessibility that will be very important in the Department’s preparation of the Title III Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Web site accessibility of public accommodations.”
By Dec. 20, 2016, multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs) must be in compliance with new rules under the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA). Among the key takeaways: Upon request, MVPDs must provide customers with information—regarding product accessibility features, for example—in an alternate format.
Section 1557, the non-discrimination provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), sets out that by first plan year beginning on Jan. 1, 2017, Covered Entities must ensure applicable health insurance & group benefit designs comply with Section 1557. In addition, by Oct. 16, 2016, Covered Entities were to have drafted a notice of individuals’ rights under Section 1557 and to have posted it in conspicuous locations in their respective offices, significant publications and communications and on their websites.
On Nov. 22, 2016, the DOJ announced an ADA Title III Final Rule. For those who don’t know, Title III requires all places of public accommodation to communicate effectively with people with disabilities through auxiliary aids and services. A screen reader (i.e. technology) is an example of an auxiliary aid and an audio description is an example of an auxiliary service.
November's Final Rule applies to covered movie theaters in particular. It requires movie theaters to have and maintain equipment necessary to provide closed captioning and audio description at a movie-goer’s seat during a digital movie previously made available with closed captioning and audio description; to notify the public about the availability of such features; and to ensure theater staff members are able to assist movie-goers during the experience.
Check out the ADA’s comprehensive FAQ on the Final Rule.
Canada has a number of laws in place that protect the human rights of Canadians with disabilities and promote income security and equal employment opportunities, including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Employment Equity Act. In addition, the Government of Canada has standards and regulations in broadcasting, telecommunications, transportation and other areas to improve accessibility and remove barriers for Canadians with disabilities, including those who are blind or have low vision.
As of this year, the Government of Canada is taking action to develop accessibility legislation at the federal level, aiming to increase the inclusion and participation of Canadians with disabilities.
The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) made changes to its Customer Service Standard this year. The revised rules went into effect July 1, 2016, requiring all employees—of organizations that provide goods, services or facilities—undergo accessibility training. Previously only staff that worked directly with the public had to be trained in accessibility.
If you run a business in Ontario, regardless of employee-count or organization type, you must make your public information accessible when asked by Jan. 1, 2017. Public information includes print documents and information on websites and handheld devices. Making public information accessible may mean providing it in any of the following formats:
- HTML and Microsoft Word
- Large print
Previously this requirement applied to larger organizations in the province; however, now, by January 2017, all organizations (i.e. including businesses with less than 20 employees) must comply.
The Customer Service Accessibility Standard in Manitoba focuses on policy, training and good communication practices to provide barrier-free customer service. There are three deadlines for organizations to mind:
- The Manitoba Government to comply within one year: Nov. 1, 2016
- The public sector to comply within two years: Nov. 1, 2017
- Private and non-profit organizations to comply within three years: Nov. 1, 2018