Municipal Website Accessibility Under the Americans with Disabilities Act

Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“Title II”) and its implementing regulations prohibit municipalities from discriminating against individuals with disabilities and require municipalities to provide auxiliary aids and services to an individual with a disability to afford an equal opportunity to participate in and enjoy the benefits of a municipality’s programs and services. To ensure effective communications with individuals with disabilities, a municipality may be obligated to provide auxiliary aids to the individual, such as paperwork in Braille or large text format or a sign language interpreter. Generally, a municipality is not required to provide these aids to individuals with disabilities unless they are requested; however, if requested, a municipality should consult with the individual to determine which auxiliary aid is most effective and make every effort to comply with the request, provided the request does not create undue financial and administrative burdens.

Title II’s requirements apply to online access to municipal services. Municipal websites that are inaccessible to or unusable for individuals with disabilities may contradict the requirements of Title II. Many individuals with disabilities employ assistive technologies to allow them to use computers, such as screen readers, text enlargement software and various operating system features like color scheme, font size or contrast adjustments. By using accessible website design, municipalities can eliminate or at least mitigate some of the barriers individuals with disabilities face in accessing online information and services.

The United States Department of Justice has developed a toolkit to assist municipalities with accessible website design. Some of the accessibility problems identified include the failure to provide text equivalents for images so that those with difficulty seeing the image may know what is depicted; the failure to post documents in text-based formats, such as HTML or RTF, that are more accessible to screen readers; websites that dictate color and font settings such that the user cannot adjust the color and font sizes in their web browser or operating system; and the lack of accessible features in video or other multimedia postings, such as synchronized text captions with the images and audio descriptions of images in videos, including changes in setting, gestures and other details. For more information on improving website accessibility, the Department of Justice’s toolkit may be accessed at:

Although posting forms and information online is an effective method to distribute information to citizens, municipalities should also make all documents, forms and information available in a comparable fashion for individuals with disabilities who cannot access the material online. Municipalities should publish a contact number on their websites for the public to request an accessible format or other auxiliary aid or service. More accessible formats of information posted online may include materials in Braille or large print, electronic files on a computer disk that can be used on a personal computer or an audiotape recording of the print document. If an auxiliary aid or alternate form of information is requested, priority to should be given to the particular format requested, unless another format is effective and providing the one requested would result in undue financial or administrative burdens or a fundamental alteration in the nature of the program. Furthermore, regardless of the format requested, municipalities should ensure that requests for materials in a more accessible format are granted promptly.

For further information regarding website accessibility under the Americans with Disabilities Act, please contact David Rugh, Esq.