Duckworth, Sarbanes, Sessions Reintroduce Bicameral, Bipartisan Legislation to Help Make Websites and Software Applications Accessible for Americans with Disabilities
[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Today, U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), U.S. Representative John Sarbanes (D-MD-03) and U.S. Representative Pete Sessions (R-TX-17) reintroduced bipartisan, bicameral legislation to help break down the significant barriers that Americans with disabilities continue to face when accessing websites and software applications. The Websites and Software Applications Accessibility Act would build on the promise of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)—passed over 33 years ago—by requiring that entities currently covered by the ADA maintain websites and software applications that are accessible for Americans with disabilities. This legislation would establish a clear, enforceable accessibility standard, as well as establish a technical assistance center, grant program and advisory committee to provide advice, financial assistance and guidance on how to create and maintain accessible websites and applications. Additionally, it would authorize a study on addressing emerging technologies.
“So many Americans rely on access to the internet for work, to order basic necessities and to connect with loved ones—and yet, too many websites and apps remain nearly impossible to use for Americans with disabilities, preventing them from fully participating in these experiences and opportunities,” said Senator Duckworth. “I’m proud to reintroduce this legislation with Congressmen Sarbanes and Sessions to finally help make the web and other technology more accessible for all users, including those in the disability community.”
“We live in a digital world where whether you are in the classroom, workplace or at home, it has become increasingly difficult to access and share information without being online,” said Congressman Sarbanes. “Unfortunately, three decades after the enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act, many online spaces and mobile apps remain inaccessible to millions of people with disabilities, impeding their fundamental right and ability to participate fully in our society. I am proud to lead a bipartisan reintroduction of the Websites and Software Applications Accessibility Act of 2023 with Representative Sessions and Senator Duckworth to rectify this longstanding civil rights issue. By establishing clear and enforceable accessibility standards, we will take important steps to close the digital divide caused by inaccessible technologies and achieve equity and inclusion for all Americans.”
"Today, digital accessibility is not merely a convenience but a basic need,” said Congressman Sessions. “The introduction of the Websites and Software Applications Accessibility Act is a significant step to establishing a digital space that is cognizant of blind Americans’ needs and addresses barriers to digital access. This legislation represents our commitment to an America that recognizes the needs of the blind."
“Although the federal government has consistently said that the ADA applies to websites and some progress has been made through the courts and with collaboration agreements, what has long been needed is a clear, enforceable mechanism to keep pace with the rapid evolution of technology and its increasing dominance in our lives,” said Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind. “We commend Senator Duckworth, Representative Sarbanes, and Representative Sessions for putting forward this common-sense legislation, and we urge their colleagues in Congress to swiftly pass it to make the digital world a welcoming space where all of us can equally contribute and participate.”
"Accessibility to the virtual world is as important as the physical world,” said Tony Coelho, former Democratic Congressman from California and author of the ADA. “In my view, this is a moral issue as important as the ADA. I applaud Senator Duckworth and Congressmen Sarbanes and Sessions for introducing it.”
Along with Duckworth, this legislation is co-sponsored by U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Ed Markey (D-MA).
In addition to the National Federation of the Blind and Tony Coelho, this legislation is supported by: Access Living, American Council of the Blind, American Foundation for the Blind and National Disability Rights Network.
Duckworth has been leading the charge to protect Americans with disabilities from discrimination, including her efforts to help expand reproductive healthcare for Americans with disabilities and make it easier for passengers with disabilities to fly in the Senate FAA Reauthorization Act of 2023.
Additionally, as a result of legislation that was passed by Duckworth, the Department of Transportation implemented a new rule requiring air carriers to disclose for the first time how many checked bags, wheelchairs and motorized scooters they damage or mishandle each month.
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