In the digital age, web accessibility has emerged as a crucial aspect of ensuring equal access to information and services for all users. Recently, California Assembly Bill AB1757 has taken center stage in this subject area, demanding website owners and developers to adhere to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 Level AA standards. This groundbreaking legislation has the potential for broad implications, as it marks the first time a governmental organization has officially adopted WCAG 2.1. As the digital landscape continues to evolve, AB1757's emphasis on accessibility sets a precedent that could extend beyond California, shaping the future of web development and inclusivity on a national level.

What is AB1757?

California Assembly Bill AB1757 represents a pivotal shift in digital accessibility, demanding website owners and developers to comply with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1, specifically the AA standards. This encompasses all websites and mobile apps accessible from California. If passed, this bill could lead to a dramatic increase in website accessibility lawsuits.

Here's what you need to know:

  • Potential for Increased Lawsuits: The adoption of WCAG 2.1 Level AA as the compliance standard may lead to a surge in website accessibility lawsuits. The bill is codifying web accessibility compliance and will make it much easier to cite compliance violations.
  • Shared Liability for Businesses and Developers: The bill could hold both businesses and third-party developers accountable for statutory damages related to website accessibility issues.
  • Stricter Guidelines: WCAG 2.1 Level AA guidelines are more stringent than the existing WCAG 2.0 Level AA, raising the bar for compliance. For more information on what exactly WCAG 2.1 Level AA compliance looks like, check out this helpful article from UserWay.
  • No Transition Period or Consideration of Small Business Hardship: The bill doesn't allow any transition period for businesses to bring their current sites into compliance with WCAG 2.1 Level AA, nor does it make any provisions for small businesses who may not have the resources to do so.

With AB1757, this marks the first time a legislative body has officially codified the WCAG 2.1 standards.

Potential Impact for Every Website Owner in the US

The ramifications of California Assembly Bill AB1757 extend far beyond state lines, presenting a landmark moment for every website owner in the United States. Notably, any website or mobile app that is accessible from California is subject to this bill, which means most internet sites. Federal adoption may follow suit, potentially leading to nationwide implications. As California serves as a prominent tech hub and a trendsetter in legislation, AB1757's impact is likely to capture the attention of federal lawmakers, who may recognize the pressing need to address digital accessibility on a broader scale. With federal agencies already showing an increasing focus on accessibility, AB1757 could set a precedent for nationwide implementation of similar standards.

Consequently, website owners throughout the United States would face a pivotal shift in their approach to web development. Embracing accessibility as a fundamental requirement would become a norm rather than an option, as businesses and developers seek compliance with both state and potential federal accessibility regulations. Failing to meet the evolving accessibility standards could result in legal challenges, loss of potential customers, and reputational damage, making it imperative for every website owner in the US to consider the broader implications and embrace accessibility proactively.

Potential Impacts for Web Developers

The potential impacts of California Assembly Bill AB1757 on web developers are significant and could reshape the dynamics of the developer-client relationship. With AB1757's emphasis on web accessibility, web developers may face several challenges and consequences that they need to consider:

  • Legal Accountability: AB1757 introduces a groundbreaking provision that allows website owners to sue developers directly over accessibility issues. This means developers are now equally responsible for ensuring that the websites they build comply with WCAG 2.1 AA standards, potentially facing legal consequences for non-compliance.
  • Increased Demand for Accessibility Expertise: As AB1757 emphasizes web accessibility, developers with expertise in implementing accessibility best practices are likely to experience a surge in demand. Businesses and website owners will seek out developers who can seamlessly incorporate accessibility considerations into their projects, meeting the required standards.
  • Higher Web Development Costs: With AB1757 introducing increased legal accountability for developers, web development costs may rise as developers invest more resources in ensuring accessibility compliance. The potential legal consequences for non-compliance may lead to additional time and effort being dedicated to rigorous accessibility testing, audits, and modifications throughout the development process. As website owners demand developers with expertise in implementing accessibility best practices, developers with such skills may command higher fees, reflecting the increased demand for their specialized services.
  • Integration of Accessibility: In response to AB1757, developers will need to integrate accessibility considerations into their development processes. Regular accessibility testing, auditing, and necessary modifications will be vital to ensure websites comply with the mandated standards. Proactive accessibility implementation not only mitigates legal risks but also fosters a more inclusive user experience.
  • Collaborative Approach: AB1757's legal implications may encourage a more collaborative relationship between website owners and developers. Both parties will need to work closely together, with developers demonstrating their proficiency in accessibility and website owners ensuring projects meet the required standards. Effective communication and cooperation are key to navigating the legal landscape and delivering accessible websites to all users.

How Website Owners Can Protect Themselves

With website accessibility lawsuits at an all-time high in 2023, website owners must act to protect themselves from potential legal repercussions. The enactment of California Assembly Bill AB1757, allowing website owners to sue developers directly over accessibility issues, adds a new dimension of legal accountability. To mitigate these risks, website owners should prioritize working with developers who have expertise in WCAG 2.1 AA standards and can proactively ensure accessibility compliance during the development process.

Additionally, website owners can proactively integrate accessibility measures into their existing websites by engaging in accessibility services, such as DiscoverTec’s specialized accessibility solutions. Conducting comprehensive accessibility audits and implementing necessary improvements demonstrate a commitment to providing an inclusive user experience for all visitors, regardless of their abilities. By taking this proactive approach, website owners can minimize the likelihood of facing legal challenges and enhance their reputation as an inclusive and accessible digital platform.

Unlock the power of digital inclusion and protect your business from the rising wave of website accessibility lawsuits with DiscoverTec's expert accessibility services. Contact us today to get started.

Published on: July 21, 2023 by Ryan Brooks, Senior Web Marketer