The Governor’s Office of Information Technology (OIT), in collaboration with the Attorney General’s Office, has released an Accessibility Operations Memorandum (Google Doc) to help clarify some of the confusion surrounding HB21-1110, Colorado Laws for Persons with Disabilities. The policy memo outlines the bill’s purpose, OIT’s role in supporting the bill and the FAQ found below.
Please contact OIT_Accessibility@state.co.us with any additional questions.
Under the Colorado Anti-discrimination Act (CADA), it is unlawful for any person to discriminate against an individual with a disability. House Bill 21-1110 expands this prohibition by defining discrimination to include two standards:
- It is discrimination to exclude an individual with a disability from participation in or being denied the benefits of services, programs, or activities provided by any Colorado government entity.
- It is discrimination for any Colorado government entity to fail to develop an accessibility plan by July 1, 2022, and to fail to fully comply with accessibility standards developed by OIT by July 1, 2024.
The new language specifically applies to accessibility of government information technology and expands the state's accessibility standards to include all individuals with disabilities, as defined by the ADA, instead of just people with vision problems.
Any individual with a disability that is subject to discrimination may bring a civil action against the Colorado government entity. Any Colorado government entity that engages in such discrimination could be subject to the following penalties:
- A court order requiring compliance;
- Monetary damages;
- Attorney’s fees; or
- A statutory fine of $3,500 payable to each plaintiff for each violation, who must be someone from the disability community. For example, after the July 1, 2024, deadline, if an individual tries to use a website that is not accessible, the government entity may be subject to a $3,500 statutory fine that is payable to the individual for each violation.
Liability for noncompliant content lies with the Colorado government entity that manages the content. Liability for noncompliance of the platform hosting the content lies with the Colorado government entity that manages the platform.
It relates to all technology, hardware, and software, that is both public-facing and internal-facing. This includes any technology provided by or procured by a government entity that is used by the public or used by a government entity employee. This technology includes but is not limited to websites, applications, kiosks, digital signage, documents, video, audio, and third-party tools.
State agencies are required to:
- Submit a written plan to OIT as part of the agency’s annual IT Roadmap for implementing the accessibility standards. The first plan is due July 1, 2022.
- By July 1, 2024, implement the sections of the plan related to accessibility standards for individuals with a disability and be in full compliance with WCAG 2.1 AA Guidelines in the creation and publication of any online content and materials; including, but not limited to text, links, images, forms, PDFs, documents, and embedded third-party applications.
- Develop any proposed budget requests, if needed, to ensure compliance by July 1, 2024.
Local governments are required to:
- By July 1, 2024, develop an accessibility plan using the accessibility standards developed by OIT and be in full compliance with WCAG 2.1 AA Guidelines in the creation and publication of any online content and materials; including, but not limited to text, links, images, forms, PDFs, documents, and embedded third-party applications.
- Local government entities are not required to submit an accessibility plan to OIT.
Under House Bill 21-1110, OIT is responsible for:
- Establishing the accessibility standards;
- Receiving and reviewing state agency written accessibility plans;
- Promoting and monitoring the accessibility standards in the state’s information technology infrastructure, including architecture; and
- Collaborating with state agencies on the implementation of accessibility plans.
OIT does not support local governments beyond establishing the accessibility standards, and cannot meet with local government teams one-on-one. Local governments should contact CCI, CML or SDA for questions and support.
Although all Colorado government entities are required to develop an accessibility plan, only state agencies, as defined in CRS § 24-37.5-102, are required to submit a written accessibility plan to OIT. The following entities are not required to submit a written accessibility plan to OIT: state-supported institutions of higher education, the Department of Education, the Department of Law, Judicial or Legislative departments, the Department of State, and the Department of Treasury. Local governments are also not required to submit a written accessibility plan to OIT.
There are no exemptions. All Colorado government entities are required to comply with OIT’s technology accessibility standards. Every person who contributes content to a website or application; develops or manages IT products and services; and every government entity employee who creates and shares emails, documents or presentations is responsible for making it accessible to everyone.
The accessibility requirements of House Bill 21-1110 are specific to digital content, which is any content that exists in digital form. Accessibility is defined as “perceivable, operable, understandable and robust digital content that enables an individual with a disability to access the same information, engage in the same interactions, and enjoy the same services offered to other individuals, with the same privacy, independence, and ease of use as exists for individuals without a disability.” Given this definition, the statute applies to more than web-based content.
The WCAG Guidelines and the requirements of House Bill 21-1110 are specific to digital content; however, the bill states that applications, programs, and underlying operating systems must permit the installation, effective use of, and be compatible with software and peripheral devices that provide accessibility to an individual with a disability. While not specifically addressed in House Bill 21-1110, accessibility standards for hardware are established in OIT’s Technical Standard (TS-OEA-001) and Section 508 of the U.S. Rehabilitation Act of 1973.