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house Bill H.R. 1199

Should the VA Make Its Websites Accessible for Individuals With Disabilities?

Argument in favor

Given the number of veterans with visual impairments ranging from blindness to low vision, the VA’s websites need to be accessible to those with disabilities. This bill would help ensure that the VA fulfills existing legal requirements to that effect, instead of dragging its feet on making its websites accessible.

burrkitty's Opinion
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10/14/2019
Is this a trick question? Dosn’t the VA primary deal with sick and wounded veterans? So shouldn’t this be obvious?
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jimK's Opinion
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10/14/2019
Yes, just do it. Vets with disabilities that hinder web access need to be accommodated and should be. Making this mandatory will ensure that it gets done and not further postponed for anyone of many possible bureaucratic delays.
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Bluewitsend's Opinion
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10/14/2019
Yes it’s very important to include the disabled in every way possible. It’s the right thing to do.
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Argument opposed

The VA has repeatedly reported that it’s working towards compliance with existing laws requiring its websites to be accessible. This bill wouldn’t change the VA’s progress towards that goal, and might even slow it down if the study it requires takes away from valuable personnel hours that would otherwise be spent on site updates.

JTJ's Opinion
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10/15/2019
It’s already being done, this is unnecessary.
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Gregory's Opinion
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10/14/2019
The VA should be for those who served in the military only.
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Just.Dave's Opinion
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10/15/2019
I'm a little confused by some of the comments... I thought that this was talking about the VA making it's website more accessible for the disabled veterans... I didn't see anything about me, an epileptic who has always been unable to serve in the military, being allowed any service provided by the VA... Yet so many comments are about people complaining that other people with disabilities not related to service "need to stay away from the VA, it's for veterans only!" Yeah, I think we got that. The VA has got a lot to do in multiple areas, but keep the money in their actual treatment, rather than wasting money on redundancy... Both Windows and IOS have accessibilty features to aide the disabled.
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bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The senate has not voted
      senate Committees
      Committee on Veterans' Affairs
  • The house has not voted
      house Committees
      Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs
      Oversight and Investigations
      Committee on Veterans' Affairs
    IntroducedFebruary 13th, 2019

What is House Bill H.R. 1199?

This bill — the VA Website Accessibility Act of 2019 — would require the Dept. of Veterans Affairs (VA) to review all its websites to determine whether they comply with current legal requirements for accessibility for individuals with disabilities. This would include attached files and web-based applications. At the study’s conclusion, the VA would be required to report its findings to Congress and describe its plans to bring its non-compliant websites into compliance (if there are any).

Under current law, there are requirements for electronic and information technology developed, maintained, procured, or used by the federal government to be accessible to people with disabilities, including employees and members of the public. For veterans, current law requires VA websites to be accessible to people with disabilities.

Impact

Veterans with disabilities; veterans with disabilities attempting to navigate VA websites; the VA; and Congress.

Cost of House Bill H.R. 1199

The CBO estimates that the study and report required by this bill would cost less than $500,000 over the 2019-2024 period.

More Information

In-DepthRep. Elaine Luria (D-VA) — herself a Navy veteran — introduced this bill to require the VA to review its websites for accessibility to those with disabilities. In a press release upon introducing this bill, she said, “Disabled veterans sacrificed for America. They deserve equal access to the benefits they have earned, and I am honored to champion their cause.”

This legislation passed the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee by a voice vote with the support of three Republican cosponsors. Its Senate companion, sponsored by Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), has one cosponsor, Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS).


Of NoteThe Blinded Veterans Association reports that there are over 130,000 legally blinded and 1.5 million low-vision veterans in the U.S. Despite current law requiring VA websites to be accessible to people with disabilities, the VA has a long history of saying that it’s “working towards compliance” with the law. The House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, in its committee report, observed that this “was especially concerning last year when the veteran crisis line was updated, and the chat feature became non-compliant—leaving blind veterans unable to access this life-saving resource.”

The House Veterans’ Affairs Committee further noted that “[b]linded veterans continue to face undue challenges accessing VA websites and mobile applications,” which are often the gateway to critical VA services and benefits. In its report, the Committee provided a number of examples of barriers that visually impaired veterans have encountered on VA websites, including: 

  • Tables that aren’t designed for cell-by-cell navigation to allow users of screen-readers and magnification software to use them;
  • Buttons that are too small, or that are hidden among other items, which makes them hard to locate;
  • Improperly labeled elements (such as checkboxes and buttons);
  • Pop-ups that interfere with the user’s ability to navigate the web page by redirecting a screen-reader’s focus;
  • Forms that aren’t designed to allow a screen-reader or magnification program to be used while filling them out; and
  • Password requirements that exceed industry standards, creating major challenges for seniors and others with cognitive challenges who need to create and remember unnecessarily complex passwords. 


Media:

Summary by Lorelei Yang

(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / alexsl)

AKA

VA Website Accessibility Act of 2019

Official Title

To direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to conduct a study regarding the accessibility of websites of the Department of Veterans Affairs to individuals with disabilities.