Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senator Bob Casey’s (D-PA) bipartisan legislation, introduced with Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS), has passed the Senate. S. 746, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Website Accessibility Act, will ensure that individuals with disabilities, including blindness, can access VA webpages in accordance with existing federal law.
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 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 on advancing this in the Senate, and hope that the House acts quickly on our version of this 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 Chairman Moran. “This legislation requires the VA to study the accessibility of its websites for blind and disabled veterans and report to Congress on their plans to fix any barriers to access. I appreciated working with Sen. Casey on this important piece of legislation that will ultimately benefit blind and disabled veterans across the country.”
With its passage in the Senate, S. 746 goes to the House of Representatives for further consideration. Similar legislation, H.R. 1199, was introduced by Representative Elaine Luria (D-VA-2) and passed the House on October 15, 2019.