President Trump’s DOJ Takes Website Accessibility Regulations off the Table

As those interested in website accessibility regulations under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) know, the Department of Justice announced in May 2016 that it would issue a rule governing website accessibility standards for places of public accommodation to take effect in 2018. It now appears that we can expect an even longer indefinite delay. Last month, the Trump Administration launched its Unified Regulatory Agenda, which “provides an updated report on the actions administrative agencies plan to issue in the near and long term.” The Agenda is meant to effectuate Executive Orders 13771 and 13777, which require agencies to reduce unnecessary regulatory burden. According to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, the Agenda “represents the beginning of fundamental regulatory reform and a reorientation toward reducing unnecessary regulatory burden on the American people. By amending and eliminating regulations that are ineffective, duplicative, and obsolete, the Administration can promote economic growth and innovation and protect individual liberty.”

The Agenda categorizes agency regulatory actions as either active, long-term, or inactive. So far, agencies have withdrawn 469 proposed actions in the Fall 2016 Agenda and reconsidered 391 active actions by reclassifying them as long-term (282) or inactive (109).

As a part of the Agenda, the Department of Justice included rulemaking for website accessibility under the ADA on its “2017 Inactive Actions” report. As a result, private companies that operate public-facing websites still have no clear regulatory guidance as to how their websites must be accessible to individuals with disabilities. In the absence of regulatory guidance, we anticipate that some courts will continue imposing website accessibility requirements through litigation and ad hoc interpretation of statutes and other guidance.