Does the information on public websites, intranets, and e-learning courses at state and local governments have to be accessible to visitors with disabilities?

The Civil Rights Division, Disability Rights Section, in the Department of Justice (DOJ) in June 2003 issued a document entitled Accessibility of State and Local Government Websites to People with Disabilities.

In this document, DOJ states that state and local governments are required under the ADA and §504 to provide "equal access to their programs, services, or activities unless doing so would fundamentally alter the nature" of these programs, services or activities or "would impose an undue burden." This equal access obligation covers access to the information on governmental-that is, public-websites.

The following is an excerpt from the document:

"The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and, if the government entities receive Federal funding, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, generally require that State and local governments provide qualified individuals with disabilities equal access to their programs, services, or activities unless doing so would fundamentally alter the nature of their programs, services, or activities or would impose an undue burden."

One way to help meet these requirements is to ensure that government websites have accessible features for people with disabilities, using the simple steps described in this document. An agency with an inaccessible website may also meet its legal obligations by providing an alternative accessible way for citizens to use the programs or services, such as a staffed telephone information line. These alternatives, however, are unlikely to provide an equal degree of access in terms of hours of operation and the range of options and programs available. For example, job announcements and application forms, if posted on an accessible website, would be available to people with disabilities 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.