Everything On Colorado’s  House Bill 21-1110 Compliance

Always at the forefront of progressive and inclusive policy-making, the State of Colorado was also one of the first to codify web accessibility into state law.

House Bill 21-1110, passed on July 1st, 2021, introduced a roadmap by which state agencies and entities should take steps to ensure their websites (and other information and communication platforms) are accessible.

The Bill sets July 1st, 2024 as the deadline by which all relevant bodies must fully comply with the law by ensuring their websites conform to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.2 at Level AA.

But what does this mean? How will you know if this law applies to you? And, what does conforming to WCAG 2.2 at Level AA mean?

Because this topic is critical for a number of reasons (with the moral obligation toward creating inclusive and fair experiences for members of the disability communities being the primary one), we’ll be breaking down everything you need to know about complying with HB 21-1110.

In a nutshell:

  • House Bill 21-1110 applies to all state and government agencies in the State of Colorado
  • Under the Bill, relevant government agencies and other relevant organizations detailed below must ensure their websites (along with other forms of ICT like web applications and software) are accessible to people with disabilities
  • In practical terms, to comply with the Bill, you need to ensure your website conforms to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.2 at Level AA
  • Failure to conform to WCAG at this level can result in monetary damages and a fine of $3,500 per violation
  • A recent amendment to the bill offers a one-year immunity from liability of non-compliance until July 2025. To qualify for this extension, you will need to show good-faith efforts toward digital accessibility by July 19, 2024

What is House Bill 21-1110 and why are you suddenly hearing about it?

In a landmark move for web accessibility, Colorado set a precedent as the first state to mandate that both state and local government websites adhere to web accessibility standards, heralded by the enactment of House Bill 21-1110.

Signed into law by Governor Jared Polis on June 30, 2021, this Bill integrates certain protections from the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) into state law. Additionally, it mandates a significant role for the Chief Information Officer in the Office of Information Technology (OIT).

This inclusion ensures that the path to lawsuits for website accessibility is now expanded ‌beyond federal courts and into state courts, thus offering a more direct route for individuals to challenge non-compliant government sites.

July 1st, 2024: The deadline set for Bill 21-1110 compliance

Under HB 21-1110, Colorado not only reaffirms its commitment to digital inclusivity but also sets forth clear compliance timelines and responsibilities:

By July 1, 2024, all state agencies are mandated to implement comprehensive plans to ensure their websites are accessible.

Spearheading this initiative, the Chief Information Officer is tasked with establishing the accessibility standards that these plans must meet, leveraging the most recent Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) version as a framework. We will expand on this topic next.

Any state agency falling short of the compliance standards by ‌July 1st, 2024 faces a noncompliance charge. To that end, the Bill enables people with disabilities to seek legal action against non-compliant sites directly in Colorado’s state courts, significantly affecting the operational priorities of over 4,000 local government entities across the state, all of which are now compelled to prioritize web accessibility.

What about the extension grant introduced in May of 2024?

House Bill 21-1110 is set to take effect this July 2024. However, an amendment to the bill was made in early May of 2024, which makes it possible for certain state agencies (and other organizations the bill applies) to be immune from liability until July of 2025.

To qualify for this extension, you must exhibit good-faith efforts toward digital accessibility by July 19th, 2024.

The efforts you must showcase include:

  • Creating a detailed progress report for your public-facing web pages, documenting specific, concrete actions you have taken to comply with the bill. This report must be updated on a quarterly basis
  • Creating a clear, easily accessible process that will allow website visitors to request corrections for any digital accessibility issues they find while engaging with your website or other digital environments. The details of this process, along with your contact information, should be easy to find and prominently displayed on all public-facing web pages on your website

What do you need to do to comply with House Bill 21-1110?

Like other web accessibility laws, House Bill 21-1110 sets the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) as its standard for compliance. Created by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), WCAG is the gold standard when it comes to accessibility, and the guidelines most impacting global web accessibility policy.

To comply with House Bill 21-1110, your website (along with other ICT products) must conform to WCAG 2.2 Level AA.

WCAG includes numerous criteria pertaining to various design and technical aspects of your website. And despite being a fairly complex and lengthy document, these criteria are ultimately based on four guiding principles:

  • Perceivable: Website visitors should be able to perceive content appearing on your website through their senses of sight, sound, and touch
  • Operable: Website visitors need to be able to operate your website regardless of ability. To that end, your website needs to be navigable entirely by keyboard, sight-assisted navigation, and other alternatives to a classic mouse
  • Understandable: Your website needs to be easy to understand. It should not include overly technical terms or complex jargon, and should be devoid of complicated instructions that are difficult to follow
  • Robust: For your website to be robust, it needs to use HTML and CSS according to specification, and it needs to be compatible with assistive technology

It’s important to note that, throughout the years, there have been many WCAG versions:

  • WCAG 2.0, published in 2008
  • WCAG 2.1, published in 2018
  • WCAG. 2.2, published in 2023

Additionally, each version of WCAG consists of three levels of conformance your website (and other ICT products) can conform to:

  • Level A - the most basic level of conformance
  • Level AA - the optimal level of conformance
  • Level AAA - the highest level of conformance and hardest to achieve

As mentioned above, House Bill 21-1110 sets the most current version of WCAG, WCAG 2.2 at Level AA, as its standard for compliance.

Conforming to WCAG 2.2 Level AA: A breakdown

To conform to WCAG 2.2 Level AA, your website will need to adhere to a fairly extensive list of guidelines. While the complete list is significantly longer, some of the most prominent action items you will need to address are:

  • Ensure your website is compatible with assistive technology like screen readers
  • Ensure your website can be navigated entirely via keyboard
  • Provide captions for videos
  • Provide website visitors with audio descriptions for video content
  • Ensure that website visitors can use either screen orientation
  • Ensure a high contrast between text sections and their backgrounds
  • Ensure that text can be resized to 200% without loss of content or function
  • Ensure your website is responsive
  • Use clear headings and labels to make it easier for people with disabilities to find content and navigate a web page
  • Make sure to indicate in code when the language on a web page changes
  • Ensure menus, icons, and buttons appear consistently

Addressing these action items (as well as the other criteria not listed here), requires significant technical knowledge and can prove time-consuming. Therefore, many state and government agencies rely on web accessibility experts, like accessServices, and web accessibility tools, like accessWidget, to help them conform to WCAG 2.2 Level AA.

Who does House Bill 21-1110 apply to?

House Bill 21-1110 applies to you if you fall under one of the following categories:

State agencies

State agencies include departments and divisions responsible for a wide range of public services and administration within the State of Colorado. Notable examples include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Colorado Department of Education
  • Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT)
  • Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE)
  • Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS)
  • Colorado Department of Natural Resources (DNR)

Local government entities

Local government entities encompass governments at the county, city, or town levels that provide localized services to their communities. To help distinguish between these categories, here are a few examples of bodies that fall under this category:

  • City councils and city departments, such as Denver's City Council or the City of Boulder's Planning Department
  • County governments such as the El Paso County Government or Jefferson County Government
  • Town Municipalities, including the Town of Vail or the Town of Castle Rock

Content owners

Content owners are individuals or teams within government entities who manage the creation, publication, and maintenance of digital content. This includes a wide array of materials such as website text, digital documents, multimedia files, and online services. Examples of roles that typically fall into this category are:

  • Webmasters and digital content managers who oversee government websites and ensure their content meets accessibility standards
  • Communications departments responsible for creating public-facing documents, press releases, and social media content
  • IT departments that develop and maintain digital tools, applications, and platforms used by a given government entity

What about non-government entities?

Currently, HB 1110 only affects government websites, and it does not apply to websites that belong to businesses or private individuals. However, the State of Colorado is taking web accessibility seriously, so it's a good idea to make sure your website is accessible today.

It is worth mentioning, however, that if you are a private business, you likely need to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Many U.S. courts today apply the ADA to the online domain, and reference WCAG as the standard websites should conform to under the law. You can read more about this by pressing here.

How can you know if your website is compliant with HB-1110?

To know whether your website conforms to WCAG 2.2 Level AA and is compliant with HB 21-1110, you will need to test it.

How do you do that?

There are a few ways you can about this:

You can use an automated testing tool like accessScan

accessScan is a free, automated accessibility testing tool. To use it, you will need to submit your website’s URL, after which the tool will run a quick, automated audit of your web page and check whether it conforms to WCAG. After the audit is complete, you will be presented with detailed results that will help you address website elements that are non-accessible (if any exist).

You can rely on web accessibility experts like accessServices

Web accessibility experts, like accessServices, are trained to comprehensively audit websites and test their level of conformance in a timely manner. accessServices also applies user testing, which sees people with various disabilities engaging with your website and providing feedback on their experience. This provides critical insights that will often go unnoticed when testing is conducted entirely by people who do not have disabilities.

The optimal approach: blending manual inspection with automated testing

Ultimately, the best and most efficient way to go about testing for HB-1110 compliance is by blending both testing approaches. You can use accessScan to gain a quick understanding of your website’s accessibility status. Then, you can turn to accessServices for a more thorough audit of your site.

How do you tackle the compliance issues existing on your website?

Once you’ve identified the accessibility issues appearing on your website, you will need to remediate them.

As mentioned above, fully conforming to WCAG 2.2 Level AA (and thereby reaching HB-1110 compliance) requires meeting a significant list of design and technical requirements. Remediating a website so that it meets these criteria requires significant technical knowledge and a comprehensive understanding of WCAG.

Additionally, wholly relying on manual remediation can prove time-consuming and highly expensive.

Therefore, many state and government agencies rely on powerful web accessibility solutions, like accessWidget.

accessWidget leverages two applications that work in tandem to help your website fully conform to WCAG 2.2 Level AA and reach HB-1110 compliance.

  1. The first is an accessibility interface that allows people with disabilities to adjust UI and design elements to fit their specific needs. These include adjusting font sizes, changing color contrasts, halting animations, and enabling text-only modes
  2. The second is an AI-powered process that handles more complex web accessibility tasks, such as optimization for screen readers and keyboard navigation

Click here to read more about accessWidget and how it can help you become HB-1110-compliant.

What consequences can you expect if you are found to be non-compliant?

Failing to present members of the disability communities with an equal experience when engaging in state and federally-run online environments is an act of explicit discrimination. Any government agency website that doesn't meet OIT's web accessibility standards could face:

  • A court order
  • Monetary damages
  • A fine of $3,500, per violation, that’s payable to the plaintiff

HB-1110 also makes it a state civil rights violation for a government agency to exclude people with disabilities from receiving benefits or services.

It is worth mentioning that accessiBe customers benefit from litigation support.

If you subscribe to one of accessWidget’s subscription packages and face legal recourse over your website failing to comply with HB-1110, accessiBe provides you with the following:

  • Automated & manual accessibility audits and assessments
  • Access to accessibility experts and personalized case management
  • Remediation and compliance consulting
  • Robust documentation and records

HB-1110 compliance goes beyond websites

While much of the information appearing in this guide pertains to websites, it is critical to understand that HB-1110 compliance applies to a variety of other information and communication technology products. Notable examples of applicable ICT include:

  • Applications (apps): Web and mobile applications for public and employee use
  • Interactive kiosks: Self-service stations for information and transactions
  • Digital signage: Electronic displays for public announcements and information
  • Video and audio: Multimedia content with required captions and audio descriptions
  • Third-party tools: External software and plugins integrated into government platforms
  • Internal systems: Employee-facing software, like intranets and HR platforms
  • Documents: Online documents, such as PDFs and Microsoft Office applications (e.g., Word documents)

Tips for remediating online documents

If you are a state or federal agency, your website likely features online documents, such as PDFs. An accessible online document primarily entails that it can be properly accessed by screen reader users. To that end, online documents need to be fully and accurately tagged. You can read more about this topic and the process of tagging in this article.

Additionally, there are a number of other WCAG guidelines that apply to online documents, such as:

  • Featuring legible and large text
  • Striking proper color contrast between text and its background
  • Adding alt text for meaningful images, if those are featured
  • Ensuring that link text is sufficiently descriptive

If your online documents aren’t fully accessible, you will need to remediate them.

The process of remediating online documents can prove challenging, time-consuming, and costly. Therefore, many state and federal agencies rely on web accessibility experts, such as accessServices, to perform these tasks for them.

Relying on web accessibility experts can prove especially beneficial when dealing with lengthy, complex documents. With an intimate familiarity with WCAG and a keen understanding of its application to online documents, these experts are better equipped to handle these projects in a timely and cost-effective manner.

Press here to learn how accessServices can help you with your document remediation needs.