Dan Goldstein, attorney for National Federation of the Blind, has recently published the clearest articulation to date of the relationship between disability law and web accessibility. In short, while the Americans Disability Act, promulgated in 1990, did not explicitly speak to cyberspace, it nonetheless is the legal foundation upon which accommodations to it are required of those entities that fall under its scope, including higher education. This point is an important one to make. For some years, institutional attorneys and disability advocates have gotten tangled in discussions about whether section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, which outlines a baseline of technical standards for web accessibility and is required for all federal agencies, is required of colleges and universities. The answer to that specific legal question is no. Receipt of federal funds does not a federal agency make of a college or university. But looking at just one tree obscured the forrest and confused the how with the why. The ADA does apply to colleges and universities, public and private. Irrespective of which particular technical standards are chosen -- section 508, W3C, a hybrid, etc. -- mounting case law makes clear the point that accommodation must be made.
Take a look yourself at this excellent document.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, a number of institutions have been working on everything from understanding the web disability issues better and forming plans, policies and guidelines to meet, and exceed, accommodation. This video on YouTube is a good introduction if you are looking share ideas about this issue at your school (and please excuse the fact that I am mentioning it in this blog and am also included in it):
There is a comment box below the blog. Please share your experiences with web accessibility? In particular, if your institution has a policy or plan, please include the URL? There are many ancillary questions such as: time line for promulgation, what standards, categorization of web pages and space within institutional domains, etc. No better way to get the party started than to share ideas about how to realize the rule!
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