ADA Update: Title II’s Final Rule Clarifies Captioning and Audio Description in Higher Education

July 3, 2024 BY ELISA LEWIS
Updated: July 11, 2024

ADA Title II Revisions: What You Need to Know [Free Webinar]


The US Department of Justice’s (DOJ) final rule on Title II of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) brings much-needed clarity for public universities and community colleges regarding web content and mobile app accessibility. 

While the rule will impact a broad range of state and local government services, this blog post dives into the specific impacts this rule will have on educational content for public universities and community colleges. 

What Is a Final Rule?

A final rule outlines new or revised requirements and their effective date. The rule-making process includes several stages, such as proposing the rule and a public comment stage. Here’s a breakdown of what’s happened thus far:

  • The DOJ proposed the rule in August 2023 
  • The period for the public to submit comments closed in October 2023
  • The rule was finalized in April 2024
  • It took effect in June 2024
  • Compliance deadlines are set for 2026

What Does the Final Rule Mean for Higher Ed?

The DOJ adopted a new standard, WCAG 2.1, for accessible web content and mobile apps. This applies to public schools, community colleges, and universities, and thus means that their covered content (websites, apps, etc.) must meet Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 by the deadline.

WCAG have been the international standard for web and video accessibility for quite some time. This new rule expands Title II of the ADA to include WCAG 2.1 Level AA as a requirement for entities already covered by Title II.

WCAG 2.1 and Captioning/Audio Descriptions

WCAG 2.1 Level AA provides specific guidelines for captioning and audio descriptions:

  • 1.2.2 Captions (Pre-recorded Video): Mandates captions for all pre-recorded video content, essential for deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers. *Note: This is required for Level A as well.
  • 1.2.3 Audio Only (Pre-recorded Audio): Requires a text alternative (transcript) for audio-only content.
  • 1.2.4 Captions (Live): Requires captions are provided for all live audio content in synchronized media.
  • 1.2.5 Audio Descriptions (Pre-recorded Video): Requires audio descriptions for all pre-recorded videos content in synchronized media.

In short, this means that higher education institutions will need to make these adjustments to their digital platforms including across all websites and mobile apps. 

Save Your Spot for the FREE Webinar on Thursday, July 25th at 2 PM ET
 

What Are the Compliance Deadlines?

While the rule went into effect on June 24, 2024, the deadlines for compliance are set for 2026 and 2027. Deadlines vary based on the size of the local government. Generally, enforcement begins on:

  • April 24, 2026, for public entities with a state or local government population of 50,000 or more
  • April 26, 2027, for public entities with a population of fewer than 50,000

Colleges and universities should use the locality’s population, not their own student body size, using 2020 U.S. Census Bureau data to find the relevant population.

Exceptions

  • There are limited exceptions, including archived web content and preexisting social media posts. 
  • The rule clarifies that password-protected content is not one of the exceptions and must also comply with WCAG 2.1 AA within 2-3 years of the final rule’s publication.

How 3Play Helps You Meet Compliance

To prepare for the Title II ADA updates, it is crucial to begin the process as soon as possible. 

Familiarize yourself with WCAG 2.1 Level AA standards to understand what is required of your institution for compliance. It is essential to know exactly what steps you need to take to meet these standards. 

Does your institution purchase web content from a vendor?
If your institution purchases web content from a vendor, ensure that their content complies with WCAG 2.1 Level AA. The regulation specifies that compliance is mandatory whether web content and mobile apps are provided directly or through contractual, licensing, or other arrangements.

You don’t have to go it alone! Work with a trusted vendor who has experience in this area. Technology companies, like 3Play Media, should be anticipating seeing these requirements in RFPs, contracts, and other agreements, and should be prepared to help.

Don’t Get Left Behind: Join the free Webinar on the ADA II Revisions on Thursday, July 25th at 2 PM ET

ADA Title II Revisions: What You Need to Know. Save Your Seat

Disclaimer: This blog post is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please consult your legal counsel for specific recommendations.

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