New York State Will Require Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.2 for State and County Websites

February 13, 2024
Image Description: Illustration of person sitting on a park bench wearing sunglasses and working on a laptop. The river and New York Skyline appear in the distance.

There was no law governing Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) designation for State agencies in New York. Signed in 2023, this new bill makes the most current version of WCAG a requirement for conformance. This means websites of New York state agencies will need to comply with WCAG 2.2.

The bill was introduced by NY State Senator John W. Mannion and co-sponsored by Sen. Cordell Cleare and Sen. Lea Webb. The bill requires the Office of Information Technology Services (ITS) to provide a report to the governor and legislature every two years. Colorado has something similar that goes further. Rhode Island is also in the process of creating a similar law.

In this episode of A11yInsights, Ken Nakata from Converge Accessibility and Equal Entry CEO and founder Thomas Logan talk about New York state signing into law requiring state agency and county websites to comply with WCAG 2.2 and how it compares to Colorado’s efforts.

What Is the New Law from New York on WCAG

Thomas Logan: Hello, everyone. This is Thomas Logan from Equal Entry, and we’re talking about will more states in the United States start requiring accessibility guidelines such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.2 for state and county websites. So, I’m excited there’s a new law here in New York on WCAG.

In December of last year, Governor Kathy Hochul signed into law Senate Bill 3114A, where we’re now seeing that the latest version of WCAG is going to be required for state agencies. So, Ken, what can you tell us about the specifics of this law?

Ken Nakata: Well, it doesn’t cover much. It simply states that all state agencies have to abide by the latest version of WCAG. And it also requires that the Office of Information Technology comes up with standards for exactly how state agencies should be implementing this

But, I should also mention that New York State also had an existing policy that mirrored 3114A. And the Office of Information Technology Services did have a policy, the latest version being from October of last year.

So that would have been more than two months before the law was signed. So, I suspect that their new policy, that ITS is going to be very similar to their old policy. But you’ve been looking at that policy, Thomas, what do you think about that policy?

Thomas Logan: I think one area, first, is just how is the New York state government supposed to ensure compliance with this policy. And one key piece is to conduct manual testing of information and communications technologies (ICT) before production use and before any fundamental alterations. That’s done annually, so every six months. That’s important.

We’re not seeing any reliance on automation alone. It’s already in the policy that you’re going to need to do manual work. As we’ve discussed in other episodes, you can’t rely on automatic solutions alone to do this.

Additionally, having a clearly posted accessibility link on the state agency’s website in the homepage footer is important. I think this is something we could take a look at every New York state agency to see if that’s being adhered to.

Another interesting one is to make sure that contractors, subcontractors, vendors, consultants, and other people working for the state agencies under contracts who do this work know about it. So, this applies. It’s beyond just people who work for the state agencies themselves. It’s also people building the content that goes on to the agency websites. So I think that’s important.

Another thing to call out is a couple of the exemptions. There is an exemption for existing information communication technology, anything procured, maintained, or used on or before January 18, 2018, that’s allowed to go backwards. I think also similarly, an understanding we have at the federal level, but there is a mechanism to apply for an undue burden or a requirement that it would be a fundamental alteration to the site.

Most likely, most state agency websites wouldn’t be able to make use of that, but it’s interesting to note. Anytime we see things where there are exemptions, it’s an opportunity for lawyers to discuss.

So those are probably important areas to call out and note that those are part of the policy. What do you think about the policy, Ken?

Ken Nakata: I think it’s a sound one. Looking at it, I like the way they handled the undue burden defense. Ordinarily, under the ADA, you’re supposed to look at all the financial resources that are available to the entire agency. Which, in some of these agencies, that budget is huge.

If you think about it as a fraction, like the cost of making the change would be the numerator, and the overall budget of the organization would be the denominator. But here, the undue burden is determined by looking at just the resources that are available to the program or the component that’s buying the ICT.

And that to me makes a bit more sense, because if you’re, say the New York Department of Transportation, you shouldn’t be looking at that entire budget for road surfacing, and maintaining bus stops, and all of that’s included there for your denominator. What you’re looking at is the cost of the program or the component that is buying that particular ICT. That makes more sense to me.

There’s some confusion, I think, in terms of the guidance that’s available from different agencies on this topic. Even if you look at the Justice Department’s website, sometimes they say, “Look at the budget of the program.” Sometimes they say, “Look at the budget of the entire agency.” Those are very different answers. I’m glad that they added some clarity there.

Any other thoughts on the policy, Thomas?

Thomas Logan: Now, I think that’s an excellent clarification, though, that the budget is the primary amount or number that we’re trying to figure out what creates an undue burden. Thank you for sharing that information. That’s very interesting.

Ken, I know you’ve been doing a lot of work also in Colorado. And Colorado has done work more previously than this New York state law. So what can you tell us about how this contrasts with the work being done in Colorado?

How Does New York Compare to Colorado?

Ken Nakata: Yes, that’s right, Thomas. Colorado has done quite a bit when it comes to public entity accessibility.

So, back in 2021, they passed House Bill 21-1110, and that law goes quite a bit further than any other state law in terms of web and IT accessibility. First of all, there’s the scope of the law. It not only covers state agencies but also any public entity within the state of Colorado. So, that would include cities, counties, and city agencies. Anything that’s a public sector that’s not a federal agency in Colorado is covered by 21-1110.

The other big change in that law is that they opened up the states to civil penalties under their existing civil rights laws. If a state agency violates 21-1110 and doesn’t meet the current version of WCAG, then they it can be sued for $3,500 per claim, which is a great incentive for plaintiffs to go and sue state agencies.

So, those are the two big ones. And so we’ve been working with several of the municipalities in Colorado that are suddenly under this. For them, like the cities and counties, this law is entirely new to them. Just like in New York, there was an existing policy that required state agencies to make sure that their IT was accessible. But there wasn’t anything that specifically required local governments to do that.

And so, first, if you’re a state agency and you’re in Colorado, well, you know, you kind of knew that this was a requirement. It’s just now that it’s part of the law. But if you’re a local government that’s not part of state government, then all of a sudden all these requirements are new to you, and it does start to feel like an unfunded mandate.

Thomas Logan: I know this isn’t going to be fully in effect until July 1 of 2024, but I do think it’s interesting to look at the idea that the damages of $3,500 could be payable to a plaintiff and it’s someone from the disability community. Personally, I think, alright, this is another way or another mechanism to work for better accessibility.

I know we’ve had arguments on both sides of how do we incentivize. How do we make technology better for everyone, including people with disabilities? And I do believe that if the understanding of those fines, if people can find real problems on state and local websites in Colorado, having that fine, and incentivizing people to do that, creates another way for the government to think about making sure they’re doing their best work for accessibility.

I’m curious to see once that becomes effective. Are there going to be particular plaintiffs, as we’ve seen in other different types of cases? But is there going to be a plaintiff that starts going through all of Colorado’s government agency websites looking for errors and logging them into the appropriate government body there?

Ken Nakata: Okay, so what do all of you think? Do you think that laws like New York’s 3114A or Colorado’s 21-1110 will have a big impact on accessibility and government agencies? And where do you live? And do you know if your state has a law or policy similar to the ones from New York or Colorado? Comment below, we’d love to hear from you.


Have you received a legal demand letter?

Legal demand letters are on the rise. With years of experience partnering with ADA attorneys and providing expert witness testimony, we have a unique perspective when it comes to explaining and justifying our clients’ accessibility compliance that will help suffice your legal requirements.

If you are experiencing any legal issues related to the accessibility of your technology, please contact us to discuss how we can help.

Owner | NYC, USA
Founder | Accessibility Consultant | Global Speaker | ADA WCAG Section 508 | A11y | Accessibility VR & A11yNYC Organizer


  1. Ken/Thomas – Do you know if this new legislation in New York will also pertain to online posted PDF documents in addition to general website accessibility?

    1. Yes, I believe a posted PDF document that is hosted on a state agency website would be considered part of the web content of that site and need to be made accessible. Documents that are not linked to from a website may not fall under this law.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *