Oh, the irony. Our federal government is filing lawsuits against private businesses and universities for having allegedly inaccessible websites and mobile apps when its own agencies have inaccessible websites. In April 2014, we reported that the American Council of the Blind (ACB) and three blind federal contractors sued the General Services Administration , alleging GSA’s own website, SAM.gov, is inaccessible and denies certain blind and visually impaired government contractors the ability to register or timely renew their government contracts online.
On Tuesday, November 10, 2015, the plaintiffs announced that the parties had reached a settlement, which requires GSA to make significant changes to SAM.gov to make it more accessible. The announcement did not reference the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0), even though the Department of Justice has been using this set of guidelines for all of its website settlements with private businesses.
The plaintiffs report that following GSA’s implementation of the agreed-to changes, the website will undergo review by another independent accessibility expert. In addition, the agreement creates a process by which members of the blind community will test and provide feedback on future changes to SAM.gov.
The attorneys for the plaintiffs stated in a press release: “The Internet is part of our daily lives, and being unable to access any website—much less a website that is essential to doing business with the federal government—puts members of the blind community at an economic disadvantage. It is unfortunate that it took the filing of a lawsuit to bring about meaningful change but we thank GSA for working collaboratively with us and our clients to make SAM.gov accessible.” And, “everyone, including the blind community, deserves access to the Internet, which has become a means for independence, information and commerce.