Web Content Exceptions Under New ADA Title II Digital Accessibility Rule

Under the updated ADA Title II, not all web content must immediately be WCAG 2.1 AA conformant. The exceptions are designed to allow governments to focus first on making the most critical and frequently used content accessible. Let’s go over the five exceptions as named in the DOJ’s web rule Fact Sheet.

Archived Web Content

State and local government websites often have lots of old content that isn’t currently used. This might include outdated information, unnecessary duplicates, or materials that are no longer relevant. Such content is sometimes stored in a specific part of the website known as an archive.

For web content to be exempt from meeting the WCAG 2.1, Level AA standards, it must meet all of the following conditions:

  • The content was either created before the state or local government needed to follow these new rules, or it’s a digital version of older physical documents (like paper files, audiotapes, film negatives, or CDs) that existed before the compliance deadline.
  • The content is only kept for the purposes of reference, research, or recordkeeping.
  • It is stored in a designated archive area of the website.
  • It has not been updated or changed since it was archived.


  • A 1998 water quality report stored in an archived section of a website would be exempt.
  • Recent city council meeting minutes would need to comply with WCAG 2.1, Level AA if created after the compliance date, even if stored in an “archive” section.

Preexisting Conventional Electronic Documents

Some public entities have a collection of old electronic documents on their websites or mobile apps, such as PDFs, word processing files, presentations, and spreadsheets. Making these older documents meet the WCAG 2.1, Level AA accessibility standards can be difficult.

Due to the time and expense costs, documents that meet the following two criteria typically do not need to adhere to the WCAG 2.1, Level AA standards:

  • The documents are in formats like word processing files, presentations, PDFs, or spreadsheets.
  • They were already available on the state or local government’s website or mobile app before the government was required to comply with these accessibility rules

To be eligible for this exception, older documents in PDF, word processing, presentation, and/or spreadsheet format must not have been updated since their posting before the compliance date.


  • A 2018 PDF flyer for a local event is exempt unless it has been updated post-compliance.
  • A document that was first posted in 2020 and then updated after the compliance date must comply with WCAG 2.1, Level AA.

Third-Party Content

Third parties, such as members of the public or independent organizations, occasionally post content on state and local governments’ websites or mobile apps. Since these third parties are not part of or managed by the state or local governments, the government often has no control over what is posted or the ability to edit it.

As a result, content that third parties post on a state or local government’s website or mobile app is not required to meet the WCAG 2.1, Level AA accessibility standards.

  • Scenario Examples:
    • User-generated content on public forums may be exempt from WCAG 2.1, Level AA requirements.
    • However, content like maps or payment systems developed by third parties but hosted by the government must comply with accessibility standards.

Individualized Documents That Are Password-Protected

State and local governments often use password-protected websites to share specific documents like water or tax bills with individual residents. Making these personalized documents immediately accessible to everyone, including those with disabilities, can be challenging. There might also be situations where no individual with a disability requires access to these documents.

Documents that fulfill the following three criteria are not required to meet the WCAG 2.1, Level AA standards:

  • The documents are in formats such as word processing files, presentations, PDFs, or spreadsheets.
  • They contain information specific to an individual person, property, or account.
  • They are secured with a password or other protective measures.
  • Exemption Condition:
    • These documents must be specific to an individual, property, or account and secured through password protection or other security measures.


  • A personal water bill available in a secure account on a city’s website would likely be exempt.
  • Conversely, a document containing general information about rate increases, even if secured, would require compliance.

Preexisting Social Media Posts

Older social media posts that are outdated or were only relevant at the time of posting do not need to meet WCAG 2.1, Level AA standards.

  • Example:
    • A 2017 social media update by a city’s sanitation department announcing a temporary service delay due to weather would be exempt.

Importance of Exceptions

These content exceptions provide much needed relief to state and local governments. Not only do the exceptions take the burden of remediating thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of documents and types of content, the exceptions under the new website accessibility ADA Title II rule allow for public entities to train on how to make content WCAG 2.1 AA conformant leading up to the compliance dates.


Although the new Title II web accessibility rule is broad, state and local governments have specific exceptions for making web content accessible under the ADA Title II rules. Documents that are old, archived, or not widely used might not need to meet the strictest accessibility standards. Also, content that is posted by the public or secured documents meant for individual people may not require immediate compliance.