State websites show dozens of accessibility errors, may violate Americans with Disabilities Act

MADISON, Wis. — Many Wisconsin state agency websites may be out of compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

A News 3 Now investigation found nearly all state agency websites had violations that made them inaccessible to certain people with disabilities.

Wendi Dwyer first spotted these issues on wisc.jobs in January 2019 when she tried to apply for a job. She brought them to the attention of the state Department of Administration, but more than a year later, nothing had been done.

“I do feel like this has cost people opportunities, time and really discouraged a lot of job seekers,” she said.

A tool developed by Utah State University allows people to check websites for errors and contrast errors, both indications of likely violations of accessibility guidelines laid out in federal law. If those violations lead to someone feeling discriminated against, they could file a lawsuit under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Nearly all agency websites had multiple types of errors, some with dozens. The website for the Department of Military Affairs had 142 contrast errors.

Molly Vidal with the state Department of Administration said in an email to News 3 Now that individual agencies work with the Wisconsin Interactive Network to develop their sites, which is housed under the DOA. She did not respond to questions on violations across the board, but said the agency is working on a new site for wisc.jobs.

“Ensuring all interested job seekers are able to successfully navigate our state’s job portal is a priority for the Department of Administration (DOA),” Vidal said. “As we become aware of issues, we work with our IT team to determine the most efficient and effective way to address the issue.”

There is a number at the top of the wisc.jobs page for someone to call if they are having accessibility issues ((608) 267-1012). The feature that houses the number on the site is flagged as a potential violation.

Dwyer said she was given to IT when she first brought issues forward.

“That’s just not equity,” she said. “That’s not fair to people who can’t chase down help. Everyone should be able to use the site.”

Steven Corfman is a civil rights attorney for Disability Rights Wisconsin. He said legally, websites are required to be accessible, and violations could lead to a lawsuit. He couldn’t say if there are definite violations because he hadn’t seen.

“If there were violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act and those violations were provable, then a lawsuit could pursue around those violations,” Corfman said.

He said the websites need to be accessible to people of all abilities, and it’s not just limited to vision.

“For example people with traumatic brain injuries or neural cognitive disorders might need information that’s organized in a clearer way,” Corfman said.

Dwyer said she was told the new site would be up by the end of the summer, but she wishes it wouldn’t take so long.

“I really want to know, what are they going to do to serve people who need access now and can’t wait six months to apply for a job they are going to miss out on?” she said.