Washington D.C. Web Accessibility Laws

January 8, 2018 BY SOFIA ENAMORADO
Updated: March 9, 2021

D.C. is one of the most accessible cities in the world. Whether you are visiting the White House or National Gallery of Art, all attractions are accessible to all visitors.

Off the streets and in the cyberspace, Washington D.C. is equally committed to creating an accessible space for all visitors.

Web Accessibility laws in D.C.

The District of Columbia adheres to the accessibility standards set by the federal government.

The applicable laws are:

Note, D.C. is not a federal government establishment, therefore Section 508 does not apply directly to the D.C. government. However, the D.C. government has adopted Section 508 requirements as a “minimum standard that must be met for all web communications.”

The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect. said by Tim Berners-Lee, Creator of World Wide Web.

How Section 508 Applies to D.C.

Section 508 applies directly to federal agencies and many state governments. While Section 508 does not apply directly to the D.C. government, the District of Columbia has adopted it as the “minimum standard” for all web communications, and all information posted on the DC.gov web portal adheres to Section 508 Standards.

The basic requirements that must be meet under Section 508 include:

  • Images: “Meaningful” images must provide a text alternative conveying the same information as the image. “Decorative” images must inform assistive technologies to ignore the image so not to confuse the reader.
  • Color: “Color and visual formatting must not be used in ways that prevent the users from obtaining the information on the webpage.”
  • tables: Layout tables are not permitted. Users should present information using Cascading Style Sheets (CSS).
  • Forms: Forms must not have barriers that prevent users from completing and submitting online forms.
  • Links: Links must have clear description of where they lead to, and webpages should not be overloaded with links.
  • Frames: All frames and iframes must use descriptive frame titles and names.
  • Page structure: Pages should use appropriate structures with proper HTML tags or properly tagged PDFs.
  • Lists: Lists must be structured as a list in the pages source code or document page structure.
  • Style sheets and styles: Users must be able to read pages without style sheets.
  • Embedded content: Users must be able to open embedded content on the page.
  • Animation: An alternative presentation without animation must be present. This can be provided through a link that brings users to a non-animated equivalent.
  • Javascript: Users must be able to navigate pages with a keyboard.
  • WAI-ARIA: ARIA properties must be correctly set.

Note, as of 2018, all entities under Section 508 must meet WCAG 2.0 level A and level AAsuccess criteria. Hence, all D.C. government entities must also comply with WCAG.

How the ADA applies to D.C.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was created to ensure equal opportunity for people with disabilities in employment, state and local government services, public accommodations, commercial facilities, and transportation.

Title II and III of the ADA relate to web accessibility for state and local entities. Title II requires “effective communication,” meaning that people with disabilities are provided with communication as effective as that provided to others.

title II extends the prohibition on discrimination established by section 504 of the rehabilitation act of 1973, as amended, 29 USC 794, to all activities of state and local governments regardless of whether these entities receive federal financial assistance. Title II of the ADA

Under Title III, private entities (like private universities and private companies) must also provide “effective communication.” The Title also states that individuals with disabilities are entitled to full and equal enjoyment of goods, services, facilities, or accommodations at any place of public accommodation.

Video Requirements for D.C.

Text transcripts must be published in conjunction with audio only or video only content. If a website does not support a transcript, then the transcript must be published in a separate website with a link to the transcript.

Synchronized audio and video must have open or closed captions and audio descriptions whenever the “audio or video is crucial to understanding the presentation.”

If a site does not support captions, then a captioned video must be hosted on a site that does support captions and a link to that captioned video should be provided (especially if the video is being posted on social media).

Social Media Accessibility

The District of Columbia acknowledges the predominance of social media for its constituents, and therefore requires D.C. government agencies to ensure they are “providing effective communication to people with disabilities through social media.”

Videos posted to Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube must include captions. Images must have alternative texts. If anything inaccessible is shared from a third-party, then steps must be taken to ensure it’s accessible when posted on a D.C. social media account.

In addition, agencies should include contact information in their profiles so that users with disabilities can contact them with any issues that may arise.

Quick Tips for Social Media Accessibility. twitter Use Easy Chirp to provide more accessible access to Twitter. Provide alt text for images. Facebook Provide text alternatives for photos. Add captions to videos. YouTube Add captions to videos. In addition, be mindful that YouTube isn't a fully accessible player. Use alternative players to ensure greater access.

Helpful resources

Learn About Other U.S. State Accessibility Laws

Click on the map below to learn more about captioning and web accessibility laws in other states.


3play media logo in blue

Subscribe to the Blog Digest

Sign up to receive our blog digest and other information on this topic. You can unsubscribe anytime.

By subscribing you agree to our privacy policy.