A former Justice Department official implored members of the Senate Special Committee on Aging at a hearing today to make Federal technology more accessible for people with disabilities, and called for “serious enforcement” of regulations under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Eve Hill – who was Deputy Assistant Attorney General leading DOJ’s Civil Rights Division from 2011 to 2017 and who is now a partner at Brown, Goldstein & Levy, LLP – said that creating regulations for Federal, state, and local governments and agencies on digital accessibility is “a good first step,” but argued that more must be done as “people with disabilities cannot afford to wait for equal digital access.”

“While regulations are essential, it is also critical that the Justice Department not reduce its enforcement efforts,” said Hill. “Enforcement and regulation involve different skill sets; addressing one should not require sacrificing the other. Congress should provide resources specifically for the Civil Rights Division to carry out its regulatory and guidance responsibilities regarding digital technology.”

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Hill also made mention of the Social Security Administration – a key agency for helping older citizens – refusing to acknowledge inaccessibility complaints until after a lawsuit was filed, among other issues she said the government needs to work on.

Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., ranking member of the committee, discussed during the hearing how Federal technology must keep pace to assist aging citizens, as well as veterans. He said that “one out of four of our veterans have a disability that is consistent with their military service,” and added that the median age of U.S. veterans is around 65.

“Federal regulations have not kept up with the technological advancements that we’ve seen in this country,” said Sen. Scott. “We must keep telehealth available and accessible for all Americans, including our seniors, our military heroes, and disabled individuals so that they can take care of themselves and meet the needs that they have.”

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Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.