Legislation Will Press VA to Make Websites Accessible to Individuals Who are Blind or Have Visual Impairments
Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senator Bob Casey’s (D-PA) bipartisan legislation, introduced with U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS), has passed the U.S. House of Representatives. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Website Accessibility Act (S. 3587) will ensure that individuals with disabilities, including blindness, can access VA webpages in accordance with existing federal law. A companion version of this bill, H.R. 1199, was introduced by U.S. Representative Elaine Luria (D-VA-2), and passed the House on October 15, 2019. With its passage in the House, the legislation will go to President Trump for his signature.
Under current law, the Rehabilitation Act requires federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology accessible to individuals with disabilities. Unfortunately, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has not made all of their websites accessible for individuals who are blind or have vision impairments. This creates an extra, unacceptable burden for blind veterans, as well as blind family members of veterans, who may wish to use online or electronic resources through the VA.
The VA Website Accessibility Act will address this issue by requiring the VA to examine all of their websites to determine if they are accessible to people with disabilities. It will also require the VA to submit a report to Congress detailing which websites are not accessible to people with disabilities, along with a plan to make them accessible and a description of existing barriers to doing so. The VA would also be required to review the accessibility of kiosks at VA medical facilities. Kiosk accessibility is critical, as many VA medical centers use them for patient check-in and management. Unfortunately, many of these kiosks do not currently use technology that would make them accessible for blind veterans.
“Ensuring that all individuals can access the VA’s electronic resources should not be a controversial idea,” said Senator Casey. “In fact, it is already required by federal law. This legislation is a small, but important step in ensuring that we meet our Nation’s obligations to every veteran, including those who are blind. I was pleased to work with Senator Moran and Representative Luria on moving this forward in the House and the Senate. I look forward to President Trump signing our bill.”
“Blind and disabled veterans often have difficulties accessing VA websites, limiting their ability to learn about the benefits and resources available to them,” said Senator Moran. “I am grateful the House advanced this legislation to require the VA to study the accessibility of its websites for blind and disabled veterans and implement plans to fix any barriers to access. I appreciate Sen. Casey’s work on this legislation and look forward to the president signing it into law.”
“After learning from blinded veterans about the difficulty they experience in navigating VA websites, I introduced H.R. 1199, the VA Website Accessibility Act to evaluate the accessibility of VA websites for veterans with disabilities— to ensure they can receive the benefits they earned from their service,” said Representative Luria. “Thank you to Senator Casey for championing this effort in the Senate and working with me to protect our nation’s veterans.”
The Department of Veterans Affairs Website Accessibility Act passed the Senate on March 26, 2020.