New ADA ruling addresses website and mobile accessibility

On April 24, the Department of Justice (DOJ) updated its ruling on Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to ensure that state and local government services, programs and activities offered via web content and mobile apps are accessible to individuals with disabilities. See Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability; Accessibility of Web Information and Services of State and Local Government Entities and Fact Sheet.

NC State has been implementing website and mobile accessibility into its policies and practices for many years. The university will have about two years to comply with the new accessibility requirements; some of these requirements are highlighted below:


  • WCAG 2.1 Level AA is the technical standard for conformance with web and mobile accessibility under Title II of the ADA. For WCAG 2.1, Level A consists of 30 success criteria, and Level AA consists of 20 success criteria. To fulfill the requirements of this rule, web content and mobile apps must conform to the 30 Level A and 20 Level AA success criteria.

Electronic Documents

  • The ruling defines electronic documents as web content or content in mobile apps that is in a PDF, word processor, presentation or spreadsheet file format. This list is exhaustive rather than open-ended. Database files are not included in the definition.

Social Media

  • This rule covers web content or content in a mobile app that a public entity makes available via a social media platform. Posts made to these platforms “must generally conform to WCAG 2.1 Level AA.”
  • Public entities must use available accessibility features on social media platforms to ensure that their social media posts comply with this rule. However, where public entities do not provide social media platforms as part of their services, programs or activities, they do not need to ensure the platform’s accessibility.


  • WCAG 2.1 Level AA Success Criteria 1.2.4 requires captions for live audio content in synchronized media.
  • The DOJ believes the compliance dates outlined in this rule will give public entities sufficient time to locate captioning resources and implement or enhance processes to ensure they can get captioning services when needed.
  • The DOJ does not believe it is prudent to prescribe captioning requirements beyond the WCAG 2.1 Level AA requirements, whether by specifying a numerical accuracy standard, a method of captioning that public entities must use to satisfy this success criterion or other measures. The final rule allows public entities to determine the best way to comply with this success criteria based on current technology. 

Course Content

  • Under the final rule, password-protected course content for public elementary, secondary and postsecondary institutions will be treated like any other content. After the rule is published in its final form, public educational institutions will generally need to ensure that content complies with WCAG 2.1 Level AA.
  • Posts by third parties on course websites may be covered by the exception for content posted by a third party. However, that exception only applies where the third party is not posting due to contractual, licensing or other arrangements with the public entity.

Third-Party Content

  • Web content and mobile apps created or posted on behalf of a public entity fall within the scope of this rule. Linked content falls outside the scope of this rule when a public entity links to third-party content that is truly unaffiliated with the public entity and not provided on its behalf due to contractual, licensing or other arrangements. This exception does not apply to the tools or platforms the public uses to post third-party content on a public entity’s web content or content in mobile apps, such as message boards.
  • This exception applies to, among other third-party content, documents filed by independent third parties in administrative, judicial and other legal proceedings available on a public entity’s web content or mobile apps. 

The IT Accessibility Office will work over the next few months to provide guidance and education about the new requirements. To learn more about digital accessibility, take the self-paced Digital Accessibility Basics course in REPORTER. If you have any questions about the updated ruling, contact the IT Accessibility Office at