2024 Regulatory Updates Mean Thousands of Digital Accessibility Jobs

Recent updates to ADA Title II and Section 504 regulation require websites, web content, and mobile apps be made WCAG 2.1 AA conformant. This means public entities and health care providers across the United States will need lots of help with digital accessibility.

“For the entities that can afford it, it will be highly beneficial if they hire an accessibility coordinator. And those with lower budgets are still going to need consultants,” Kris Rivenburgh, founder of Accessible.org said.

Also expected is a rise in a demand for user testing. During user testing, an accessibility professional with one or more disabilities tests a digital asset such as a website or mobile app for practical accessibility.

Overall, the 2024 regulatory updates should spur job growth for an array of accessibility professionals including coordinators, consultants, testers, auditors, developers, and trainers.

We will also see organizations develop upon in-house expertise by training employees and contractors already in place.

What Laws are Driving Job Growth?

The digital accessibility industry has seen intensified demand in 2024 due to regulatory updates to Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

In April, the Department of Justice issued a new web and mobile app accessibility rule under Title II of the ADA. This rule covers state and local government entities which includes public schools, law enforcement, parks, courts, government offices, and many other programs, activities, and services.

In May, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issued a new rule under Section 504 that includes digital accessibility requirements. This rule covers recipients of HHS federal assistance including hospitals, state and local human service agencies, and nursing homes.

Both ADA and Section 508 rules allot two and three years for compliance, depending on population size and number of employees, respectively.

The State of Colorado’s digital accessibility law, HB21-1110, is also expected to have its compliance deadline extended from July 1, 2024 to July 1, 2025 as Colorado public entities have struggled to meet compliance requirements.

And keep in mind that existing ADA Title III litigation persists and upcoming updates to Title III will mean even more demand for accessibility work in the coming years.

How Many Jobs Will Be Created?

According to a report from the Census Bureau, 89,004 local governments existed in the United States in 2012.

Local governments included 3,031 counties (down from 3,033 in 2007), 19,522 municipalities (up from 19,492 in 2007), 16,364 townships (down from 16,519 in 2007), 37,203 special districts (down from 37,381 in 2007) and 12,884 independent school districts (down from 13,051 in 2007).

As a result of recent updates to regulation, all of these entities and more will need help with digital accessibility.

Some of the upfront and advanced technical work will be sourced to service providers, but the project planning and management, organization, content remediation, and continued maintenance of WCAG 2.1 AA conformance will create tens of thousands of opportunities for employees and contractors.

Will Artificial Intelligence (AI) Take Accessibility Jobs?

Although artificial intelligence can help speed up certain accessibility tasks such as writing alt text descriptions, creating closed captions, and code remediation, AI tools can only help in certain aspects of accessibility; ultimately all accessibility work needs to be manually reviewed.

Moreover, the completion of accessibility work – including audits, remediation, and user testing – cannot currently be automated so manual work is essential to WCAG 2.1 AA conformance and compliance.

Training and Marketability

The amount of training and credentials necessary to land a job or contract work depend on the employer and the position currently needed.

For jobs that require accessibility expertise, IAAP certification is commonly requested, or at least preferred.

However, for contract work, demonstrable knowledge and experience with WCAG 2.1 AA is what employers desire.

For example, a social media marketing agency doesn’t need to be certified as an accessibility specialist, but they do need to know the WCAG success criteria applicable to content creation.

Both current employees and job seekers can benefit from WCAG 2.1 AA training as WCAG expertise will increasingly become a marketplace asset.

For those looking for work, having WCAG 2.1 AA training can make their resumes stand out and open up new career activities.

Kris Rivenburgh’s WCAG Course is an excellent training program for learning WCAG 2.1 AA.

Summary

Although digital accessibility service providers such as Accessible.org will see an initial increase audit, remediation, and user testing work, many long-term jobs and contractor positions will result from the historic 2024 push to digital accessibility.

Based on the immense requirements, number of public entities, and compliance timeline, the number of additional jobs added can easily exceed 10,000, with multiples more contract positions available.

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