What’s Unique About California’s Web Accessibility Laws?

Illustration of a person reading a book on a surfboard

Why does this matter? 

Once your website or content is online, it is available for anyone to access—and that includes users in the state of California. Which means you are liable for any of their statutes that your site violates.  But what exactly are these statutes?  And what makes them different from the web accessibility standards in place in the rest of the United States? 

California Consumer Privacy Act

The California Consumer Privacy Act or CCPA is mostly targeted at larger businesses or businesses that make money off of user data. The purpose of the CCPA is to regulate how companies collect and use personal data they collect on users—as well as ensure transparency about what data is being collected.  And while it isn’t an accessibility statute, it does have accessibility requirements written into it.  In other words, the content required by the CCPA is also required to be accessible. 

What’s interesting about the accessibility requirements included in the CCPA is that they allude to certain areas of WCAG 2.1.  In most of the cases we’ve seen up until this point, WCAG 2.0 has been the standard.  WCAG 2.1 adds some new accessibility considerations, including some specific to mobile devices.  

The Unruh Civil Rights Act

The Unruh Civil Rights Act has actually been around since 1959.  It is an anti-discrimination act that prohibits businesses from discriminating against the public based on a variety of different characteristics—including people with disabilities.  But people with disabilities are already covered by the ADA, so why does this matter for web and content accessibility?  

Plaintiffs citing the ADA can only seek injunctive relief.  In other words, they can only ask that the defendant make their site or content accessible.  Under the Unruh Civil Rights Act, they can also seek money damages.  Substantial ones, too.  In one such case, a plaintiff received $4,000 in damages. 

The requirements for web accessibility in California aren’t wildly different from the rest of the United States.  And they certainly don’t extend beyond the things that your business should already be doing to ensure a positive and intuitive experience for all of your users.  But the penalties for not providing these considerations are much more concerning in California.  In other words, spending some money on an accessibly consultation now could save you a lot of money in the future.  

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