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Public Schools Have 2-3 Years to Comply With ADA Title II

A new rule from the U.S. Department of Justice requires public schools to ensure that any web or app-based content that impacts student opportunities complies with globally recognized accessibility standards by 2027.

Closeup of a black keyboard with one red key that says "Accessibility" and has an icon of a person in a wheelchair.
Public educational institutions across the U.S. have two or three years, depending on their size, to ensure their web content and mobile apps meet technical accessibility standards adopted in April under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and some experts say they should start preparing now.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the revision aims to provide greater clarity as to how public entities can meet their ADA obligations for web content and mobile app accessibility by pointing them to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1, a globally recognized set of standards developed as part of the nonprofit World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Accessibility Initiative. While the consortium updated WCAG 2.1 guidelines in 2023, the DOJ’s new rule only requires schools to come into compliance with the 2018 version.

“Online learning materials and apps need to be usable by every student,” Skip Stahl, senior policy analyst emeritus at the nonprofit Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST), said in a public statement. “These new requirements provide a detailed road map to help schools make that a reality.”

Any web or app-based medium that could impact student opportunity — from content management systems and instructional content to parent communication and registration tools — must achieve WCAG 2.1 Level AA compliance by 2026 or 2027, according to DOJ’s new rule. Schools that serve a jurisdiction with a total population of 50,000 or more must meet these accessibility standards by April 24, 2026, and those that serve less than 50,000 have until April 26, 2027.

“The department believes that it is more efficient and effective for public educational institutions to use the two- or three-year compliance time frame to prepare to make content accessible proactively, instead of having to scramble to remediate content reactively,” the DOJ rule says, explaining the timeline.

The rule identifies five categories of web and app-based content that, under certain circumstances, may not be required to achieve WCAG 2.1 Level AA accessibility: archived web content, legacy electronic documents, content posted by a third party not under the public entity’s control, pre-existing social media posts, and password protected or otherwise secured conventional electronic documents.

According to staff at CAST, the addition of technical standards to Title II of the ADA is a huge step forward for people with and without disabilities.

“What we’ve found through all of our work over 40 years at CAST is that when you universally design your products — when you provide accessibility — way more people use those features than who they are intentionally designed for,” CAST CEO Lindsay Jones said. “It ends up helping everyone.”
Brandi Vesco is a staff writer for the Center for Digital Education. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and has worked as a reporter and editor for magazines and newspapers. She’s located in Northern Nevada.