New Digital Accessibility Mandates Open Opportunities in SLED Markets

The Department of Justice (DOJ) recently released its Final Rule on Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In doing so, they created numerous new requirements state and local governments need to adhere to in designing their digital offerings including adding video narration options, making websites compatible with assistive technologies and making web page labels descriptive. These changes have the potential to create a plethora of opportunities for IT vendors selling into the state and local markets and they will doubtlessly impact the final IT end products state and local governments will need going forward.

The new rule requires state and local governments’ web content to adhere to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) Version 2.1, Level AA, barring certain exceptions. These exceptions include, for example, social media posts made before the compliance deadline. The DOJ estimates that states will spend around $275 million, counties about $967 million, and cities about $2 billion on efforts to comply with the new regulations, and this estimated $3.2 billion does not even account for school districts, police departments, public universities, and other special districts and public organizations. Additionally, the deadline to comply with these new regulations varies by government type and size: special district governments and non-special district governments with fewer than 50,000 people have until April 26, 2027 to comply, whereas non-special district governments with 50,000 people or more have until April 24, 2026.

Furthermore, states have been making progress on digital accessibility initiatives even before the new rule, and much of that progress has created digital accessibility policies not required by the new rule. For example, at least 15 states have digital accessibility coordinators, and many states are planning to create digital accessibility coordinator roles. Additionally, state-specific digital accessibility projects, such as Virginia’s Website Modernization Program, have seen states make significant progress in making their digital services accessible. Virginia’s Website Modernization Program saw the state double its accessibility compliance in just a year, though this was prior to the new DOJ rule. Suffice to say, state, local and education (SLED) digital accessibility is an area ripe for opportunity right now, and IT vendors would be mistaken to discount it when considering possible opportunity areas to sell into.

Insertion Points

Now that we have discussed the changes occurring in the SLED digital accessibility space, let’s discuss some possible areas where IT vendors may find opportunities.

With numerous accessibility requirements impacting state and local digital services, it can be difficult for state and local IT employees to ensure the digital services they deploy fully comply with every requirement. Therefore, digital auditing and quality assurance solutions and services that can check digital services for accessibility compliance may find significant interest. Some companies have even released AI web design aids designed specifically to assist in making websites accessible, and these solutions will find much more success in the SLED market now with these new rules as governments strive to find ways to adhere to the new regulations as cheaply as possible.

In addition to the ADA and state and local requirements, schools need to adhere to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). IDEA requires schools to make adjustments based on students’ individual needs and creates opportunities to sell schools personal use accessible technologies such as screen readers and software making computers more accessible. And, unsurprisingly, many of the documents schools need for IDEA compliance have strict data privacy requirements, creating opportunities for data privacy and data security solutions.

Metadata solutions can be of significant help to organizations working to make their digital services more accessible. Metadata can be used to easily distinguish between versions of web pages that are accessible and those that are not, as well as to distinguish between different versions of the same web page designed to accommodate different viewers. A web page designed for a deaf person may need different accommodations than one designed for use by a blind or visually impaired person, for instance.

Of course, public organization web pages are not the only digital service that needs to be made accessible. Social media posts, videos, digital documents, and mobile apps, for instance, all have accessibility requirements, many of which are newly created by the recent DOJ rule. IT companies may, therefore, find opportunities in AI solutions assisting in video narration and captioning, mobile app development, and more.

Suffice to say, there are plenty of accessibility opportunities in the SLED IT space right now. IT vendors selling into the space should be aware of accessibility requirements both to better identify opportunities for sales and to better design their products and services to meet their customers’ needs. And, remember, it is always better to be able to provide customers with accessibility features they are not required to have but could benefit from than it is to lack the ability to provide solutions for digital services that cannot accommodate accessibility requirements, especially where requirements may vary based on jurisdiction.

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About the Author:
Gabriel Zighelboim, Market Insights Data Analyst at TD SYNNEX Public Sector, specializes in analyzing government IT procurement data to deliver actionable insights to vendors and resellers in the public sector.