NYC, Europe Enact Website Accessibility Standards

Posted by Anna on May 10, 2016 at 4:07 pm. ADA, Captioning, DOJ, Video Description, WCAG
Illustration of computer with WCAG and related accessibility symbols on it

Illustration of computer with WCAG and related accessibility symbols on it

2016 has already been a big year for creating regulations around website accessibility. In March, New York City became the first major municipality in the United States to adopt legislation mandating accessibility standards for all of its government agency websites. The New York City government serves over 8 million people and employs approximately 325,000 for its 120+ agencies.

The law recognizes that Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 Level AA (”WCAG 2.0 AA”) is quickly becoming the international standard for website accessibility. ¬†While the Department of Justice has continually delayed setting legally-required standards for state and local governments under Title II of the ADA, as well as public accommodations (which encompasses private businesses) under Title III, it has strongly indicated through investigations, settlements, and court filings over the last 5 years that websites will be deemed “accessible” if they are compliant with WCAG 2.0 AA standards.

The law requires that the City establishes a website protocol within 6 months. If the City chooses to adopt a protocol that differs from WCAG 2.0 AA, “it must first consult with experts in website design, conduct a public hearing, and ensure that any differences will still provide effective communication for persons with disabilities.”

Last week, more than three years after its proposal, members of the European Parliament, Council, and Commission agreed on the first EU-wide rules to make public sector websites and mobile apps more accessible:

The Directive will cover public sector bodies’ websites and mobile apps, from administrations, courts and police departments to public hospitals, universities and libraries. It will make them accessible for all citizens – in particular for the blind, the hard of hearing, the deaf, and those with low vision and with functional disabilities.”

The EU web accessibility policy requires that “top-level” EUROPA pages, as well as all new EUROPA pages and sub-sites should meet the WCAG 2.0 AA standards. They are currently working to bring as many lower-level pages as possible up to that same standard.

While WCAG 2.0 AA standards apply to many different aspects of websites, these are the guidelines for video content:

Level A (Beginner)

To conform to Level A guidelines, online content producers must provide the following:

Offline Captions Pre-recorded video content with audio must have closed captions.

Video Description Pre-recorded video content with audio must have video description OR text video description (media alternative) that is accessible using screen reader technology.

Level AA (Intermediate)

To conform to Level AA guidelines, online content producers must provide what is listed in Level A, as well as:

Live Captions Live streaming videos must have closed captions.

Video Description Pre-recorded video content with audio must have video description.

To find out more about how you can make your online video content compliant with these standards, contact

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