Opinion: Colorado is taking step forward for those with disabilities. Businesses should follow suit.

For decades, the disability community has made the world around us more accessible for people with disabilities through steady, unwaveringly persistent advocacy. The work is far from over, but you can see progress wherever you look. Nonetheless, the digital world still has major gaps and struggles in keeping up with the 250,000+ websites that go live daily.

Unchecked, it’s become full of hurdles unknown to the average person.

However, on July 1, a Colorado bill, introduced by Rep. David Ortiz, a paraplegic manual wheelchair user, will go into effect and it’s a compelling step at the state level to address limitations existing in the digital world. The legislation, HB21-1110, requires all state digital resources to meet accessibility standards for people with disabilities.

Websites, apps, programs, and anything else used by the public that is handled by the state will need to be accessible. Failure to comply could lead to injunctive relief, monetary damages, or a fine payable to a plaintiff with a disability. Only for those state agencies and public entities that have demonstrated a good faith effort towards compliance will there be a one-year extension.

There are many ways a website or app may be inaccessible. Maybe it’s not usable by screen readers for the blind or voice dictation software; maybe it has colors that make something unreadable for those who are colorblind or doesn’t allow font size changes for those who can’t read small text. This legislation says none of those limitations are acceptable. It declares that resources from the state of Colorado — whether the state itself or an entity contracting with the state — should be usable by everyone, regardless of their abilities. I think that’s awesome.

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The fact that the bill passed in 2021 and is just now taking effect shows how significant this can be for websites, and all businesses should pay attention and be proactive. The good news is there are different approaches and solutions to bring about web accessibility and usability.

Speaking strictly in a business sense, 1.3 billion people have disabilities that may impact their internet use. Those people are just like everyone else looking to use the internet to learn, work, and buy things they probably don’t need but want anyway. They’re potential customers, yet they’re not being treated as such.

Twenty-five percent of those with a disability have found it difficult to check out and pay due to accessibility difficulties. Almost a third said they would buy additional items if the online buying experience were more accessible.

That’s potential revenue thrown away.

Beyond that, from a moral standpoint, accessibility and inclusion are critical foundational components of society. The fact that Colorado has planted its flag in the sand and taken action to stand with people with disabilities is a powerful moment.

As a quadriplegic who relies on voice technology to navigate the internet, I look at this moment with hope. It makes me think back to the Architectural Barriers Act of 1968,  which mandated that all federal buildings be accessible. It was historic, but it was also just the beginning. More than two decades later, we saw the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) pass, which would change the lives of every person with a disability.

Given its power to enforce the law, the Department of Justice is one of the biggest and most consistent advocates for a more accessible future. This month, the U.S. Attorney General signed a final rule under Title II of the ADA to ensure the accessibility of web content and mobile apps for people with disabilities, clarifying the obligations of state and local governments to make their websites and mobile applications accessible. More progress.

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While many websites are fully accessible, millions are not. I hope that decades from now, this Colorado legislation will be seen as one of the influential concrete steps taken to achieve a completely accessible Internet.

Josh Basile is a quadriplegic paralyzed from the shoulders down, a power wheelchair user, a trial attorney, and community relations manager at accessiBe.

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