Department of Justice to companies with inaccessible websites: We’re back!
Deconstructing the Rite Aid settlement agreement
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On November 1, 2021, the Department of Justice published a settlement agreement it entered into with the nationwide pharmacy chain Rite Aid specifically concerning the inability of people with disabilities to use both Rite Aid’s COVID vaccine service web pages and portal.
Here are my takeaways:
The Whitehouse and the DOJ consider the correct accessibility standard to be WCAG 2.1 Level AA
It doesn’t matter that Section 508 uses the almost-decade older WCAG 2.0. The Whitehouse and DOJ have adopted 2.1. Ignore this fact contained in clause 13(a) of the Rite Aid settlement agreement at your peril.
Rite Aid does have the option of choosing a different standard. However, Rite Aid carries the burden of demonstrating to the government that the standard they want to use instead of WCAG 2.1 Level AA provides equally effective or greater accessibility and usability. Good luck with that.
A-level bugs are not OK.
The DOJ is not asking for accessibility perfection and understands that bugs happen. That is recognized in clause 13(c), which begins with:
A limited number of isolated instances of noncompliance … shall not constitute a material breach of this Agreement
“Isolated instances of noncompliance” appears to be government-speak for “bug.”
Rite Aid releasing updates containing A-level bugs could easily be considered a material breach of the settlement agreement. A-level bugs, by definition, block people with disabilities from being able to perceive, operate, or understand chunks or even all of a web page. However, it looks like the DOJ considers a few, scattered, periodic AA bugs that do not impact a person with a disabilities’ access to…