Ryan Wieland

Colorado’s Accessibility Law HB21-1110 Explained

In 2021, the Colorado government formally passed the bill known as HB21-1110. This is more formally known as Colorado Laws for Persons with Disabilities, with the core goal of removing access barriers and discrimination against individuals with disabilities. 

Specifically for most government entities in Colorado, this put much more emphasis on ensuring digital accessibility requirements were formalized with a clear action plan to ensure compliance by the state.

Fast forward nearly three years and government entities must now act swiftly to ensure they are following the OITs requirements, as HB21-1110 put forth a formal compliance date of July 1, 2024.

For starters, if you’re a Colorado Government entity reading this and stressing about the upcoming compliance requirement date, do not panic! Digital Accessibility is an ongoing process, so no date, regardless of law, is an end-all, be-all for digital accessibility. 

Digital Accessibility as defined by HB21-1110

In order to comply with HB21-1110, Colorado entities must understand what the law covers. The Colorado OIT has published an FAQ to provide guidance, but it’s essential to note that accessibility requirements apply to all technology, hardware, and software that government entities provide. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Websites
  • Applications
  • Documents
  • Videos
  • Third-party tools

A few key areas within this are important to call out. First, OIT doubled down on the fact that this pertains to all digital content throughout the FAQ details. Of specific importance, this means not only ensuring your website or application is accessible but all digital documents (PDFs, Word Documents, etc.) you have posted on your website for visitors OR post in the future, send out via emails, or provide the ability to download and print from a system, must also be compliant and accessible to all.

Additionally, there is one major challenge for any organization, regardless of being a Colorado government entity, focused on building a Digital Accessibility Plan within this included technology requirement. This challenge lies in third-party tools the entity has procured and deployed to its consumers through digital interfaces. 

The major compliance concern on this front is perhaps apparent – even if you audit said third-party tools and find accessibility barriers, you likely have little or no control over making them accessible. 

Furthermore, most of these tools deployed at the government entity level serve a very niche purpose, and the reason for procurement among a few select vendors was simply due to the fact of having no other option – in many cases, it is not remotely feasible or budget appropriate to build your own system or tool to solve every niche.

In fact, this is the one area of HB21-1110 where I do feel Colorado lawmakers or OIT could have helped their state entities drive a more compliant short and long-term accessibility plan, moving this requirement to the third-party tools who contract with a Colorado government entity. This would promote broader accessibility and digital access not only for people with disabilities in Colorado but also across the U.S. and the world in some scenarios.

The good news on the third-party front for you as a government entity reading this article is that Allyant has also built a solution for this age-old accessibility challenge (regardless of HB21-1110). We have launched a FREE Procurement Assessment service that your organization can leverage to build out and understand the current accessibility and usability of your third-party tools and, from there, build a reasonable plan of action with those vendors to ensure they make the product accessible.

Don’t hesitate to contact our team for more information on how ProcureEnsure could help you streamline HB21-1110 third-party tool compliance immediately.

Timeline for HB21-1110 Compliance & Potential Impact for Non-Compliance

With the formal time to comply quickly approaching, let’s level set with an outline of what HB21-1110 has set forth as the dates for compliance for government entities. The key dates within the bill include:

  1. By July 1, 2022, develop an accessibility plan that outlines how the entity will comply with the new accessibility standards.
  2. By July 1, 2024, ensure that all public-facing and internal-facing technology, hardware, and software provided by or procured by the entity is accessible to all individuals with disabilities.
  3. Regularly test and monitor the accessibility of the entity’s technology to ensure ongoing compliance with the new standards.

From there, the bill outlines the potential impacts of not complying with the set-forth requirements. For these requirements, we will pull directly from the Colorado OIT website:

“Any individual with a disability that is subject to discrimination may bring a civil action against the Colorado government entity. Any Colorado government entity that engages in such discrimination could be subject to the following penalties:

  • A court order requiring compliance;
  • Monetary damages;
  • Attorney’s fees; or
  • A statutory fine of $3,500 payable to each plaintiff for each violation, who must be someone from the disability community. For example, after the July 1, 2024, deadline, if an individual tries to use a website that is not accessible, the government entity may be subject to a $3,500 statutory fine that is payable to the individual for each violation.”

Building a Plan of Action to comply with HB21-1110

We’ve now established what it means and what is covered to comply with HB21-1110 successfully. 

Now, let’s move on to the more challenging part – how can you efficiently and effectively develop an action plan to ensure that you are on track to meet the compliance requirements by July 1, 2024, and beyond?

It was hoped that by the end of 2022, all government entities would have developed a high-level plan to ensure compliance is met and maintained, particularly before the July 1 deadline. 

If your government entity has not yet created this plan, Allyant’s team would be more than happy to assist you. We can quickly help you build a plan of action (usually in 5-7 business days) that covers digital properties, documents, and third-party tools, as outlined above.

An immediate recommendation would include:

Document your Web Properties

Build out a list of website domains your entity controls that could be in line to comply with HB21-1110. For some entities, this is just a singular Town or County website. For others, the same Town or County example entity might have 5 to 10+ websites within their control. 

Before you can effectively build out a plan of action for website accessibility conformance or testing, it is crucial to document everything that will need to comply.

I would recommend including in this inventory list the owner of the website – either an existing owner or one established as part of your HB21-1110 plan – and when the website was last audited for accessibility (if applicable). From there, you can work with a reputable vendor to quickly build a testing process for auditing these websites.

Inventory your Digital Documents

Managing digital documents can be challenging for any organization, especially for government entities with years of PDFs and Word documents posted on their websites. To tackle this issue, it is essential to create a practical plan for the existing documents that need to be made accessible and then develop a plan for all future documents to be posted as well.

We help organizations with this process daily and generally recommend in a document accessibility plan to:

  1. Run analytics on the most downloaded documents on your website, if possible.
  2. Pick a date for which existing documents will be remediated and reposted to the website in an accessible format – that could be going back to January 1, 2023, or much further.
  3. Build a strong Web Accessibility Statement that outlines how a visitor can obtain an accessible version of a document before this defined time of making documents accessible.
  4. Remove unnecessary documents – often, an accessibility project plan can be a great content cleanse.
  5. Build out a strong policy for future documents – either providing software and training for internal employees to make them accessible or leveraging a vendor to remediate documents on demand before posting.

This is one step that Allyant can significantly simplify and streamline for any organization. Our team can run our CommonLook Clarity PDF solution against your website(s) and provide you with a full list of public-facing document on the website and their level of accessibility currently. With this report, we can help your team build out a near real-time plan of action for handling digital documents in just a few business days.

Test Third-party Tools

As mentioned above, ensuring the third-party tools you are currently leveraging are accessible will be a challenge for every organization needing to comply with HB21-1110. To help streamline this process, we strongly encourage your team to build an inventory list of all third-party tools you currently leverage. This could be plug-ins leverage on your website or full portals deployed for visitors to obtain information or engage with your government entity.

Once this inventory list is built out, we would be happy to map out a ProcureEnsure Testing Plan with your team – allowing you to quickly document that you have engaged testing by real humans for ALL third-party tools you are leveraging. From there, you can ensure these third-party providers are aware of accessibility access barriers and inform them of the compliance requirements of HB21-1110 (which they are hopefully well aware of), and the compliance threat their tool is making for your entity.

This will allow you to build in procurement contract language at the renewal of this software to ensure digital accessibility is a priority for the vendor or work on procuring an alternative to ensure you can meet the requirements of HB21-1110 set forth for your entity. Best of all, we provide this support to your team for FREE.

Support from Colorado’s Statewide Internet Portal Authority

In terms of support from a Colorado state perspective in helping government entities comply with HB21-1110, one major help for both large and small organizations is access to the Statewide Internet Portal Authority, or SIPA. From our standpoint, SIPA has been immensely helpful in helping a long list of government entities push toward compliance with the state’s new accessibility law.

For those unaware, SIPA is a government organization created by the general assembly in 2004 to assist all Colorado governments in providing digital government services to better engage with constituents and manage operations through all things technology. 

The ultimate advantage to streamlining accessibility conformance through SIPA lies in the fact that they hold technology-vendor contracts so that eligible government entities can procure technology services without having to go through a lengthy procurement process. This can be, and will be, critical to many Colorado entities, with July 1, 2024, HB21-1110 compliance date on the horizon.

SIPA provides a simple procurement process for Colorado state and local governments, special districts, public K-12 education, and universities. Partner organizations can work with SIPA by completing the Eligible Government Entity (EGE) Agreement. 

Simplify Conformance through SIPA & Allyant

Here at Allyant, we are grateful for SIPA’s support and promotion of HB21-1110 to their member organization. This now includes engaging Allyant to make ALL our services outlined in this article available to SIPA member organizations without the stress and delays of procurement. As noted, this is critical regarding the tight timelines outlined in HB21-1110 and in making accessibility conformance and ongoing requirements.

To learn more about our extensive accessibility services that can help streamline your compliance with HB21-1110 or how you can leverage SIPA to streamline this process, please review our recent Services Overview Webinar with the SIPA staff.

If we could help your organization comply with HB21-1110 or any other U.S. or global accessibility laws through the services outlined above, don’t hesitate to contact our team for a deeper dive into how we can assist your team in reaching your accessibility goals.