PEAT Talks Recap: The ADA and Accessible Workplace Technology

When the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law in 1990, much of the technology central to today's workplaces did not yet exist. But in the 26 years since the law’s passage, technologies have evolved rapidly, leading to numerous questions about the implications of the ADA on accessible workplace technology practices.

In that spirit—and in honor of the 26th anniversary of the signing of the ADA—our July PEAT Talk featured legal expert Bobby Silverstein, a member of the PEAT team and a principal in the law firm of Powers Pyles Sutter & Verville, PC. Led by PEAT Project Director Josh Christianson, the Q&A session explored how the ADA and related policy developments apply to accessible workplace technology.  

Josh began by asking Bobby whether future technology was considered from the ADA’s inception. Indeed, it was. The first set of ADA regulations released by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) in 1991 made it clear that the law applies to emerging forms of technology. Bobby explained that under Titles I and II of the ADA and the existing regulations, “it's unlawful to discriminate on the basis of disability in regard to recruitment, advertising, job application procedures, and all other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment.” This means that information and communications technology (ICT) used at all phases of the employment lifecycle must be accessible.

Josh then posed a question to Bobby regarding the growing amount of accessible technology-related settlements from the DOJ over the past few years. Bobby—who has read all 167 of these settlement agreements between DOJ and public and private sector employers, private entities, and state and local governments—clarified the main issues addressed by the settlements. According to Bobby, “a typical settlement agreement between DOJ and an employer requires that the employer ensure employment opportunity websites and job applications conform to...the ‘Web Content Accessibility Guidelines,’ WCAG 2.0, Level AA success criteria.” Furthermore, the settlement agreements call for employers to develop accessible ICT policies that extend to all aspects of ICT testing, procurement, training, and use. For instance, employers and other entities covered by the ADA cannot use a vendor if the vendor does not provide an accessible product or service.

It is critical for employers to adhere to accessibility standards, Bobby noted, because “the gateway to employment is often the Internet.” Job seekers use the Internet for all stages of their search, including searching for job opportunities, applying for jobs, and completing pre-employment testing. To ensure that eRecruiting technologies are accessible, employers and human resources professionals can visit TalentWorks, a free, online resource on this topic developed by PEAT.

In addition to focusing on current laws regarding employment and accessible ICT, Bobby also shared key information about the DOJ’s Supplemental Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (SANPRM) on the accessibility of state and local government websites under Title II of the ADA. As Bobby explained, the SANPRM, which is published in the Federal Register, is currently open for public comment. Within the SANPRM are 123 specific questions on which the DOJ is asking for comments. However, Bobby advises, “you can go on and look at the questions and answer which ones...interest you. You do not have to go through all 123.” And you can also submit multiple comments.

And happily, DOJ recently announced that they’ve extended the deadline for the public comment period to October 7, 2016, so please be sure to participate! If you’d like more information before commenting, PEAT has developed a brief Q&A about the SANPRM, as well as an in-depth policy brief. And of course, you can also check out the full archived PEAT Talks video for more insights from Bobby on the ADA, employment, and accessible ICT.