There are specific laws requiring accessibility of Information and Communication Technology (ICT), including: Sections 504 and 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. There are also major standards and regulations to help guide the development of accessible ICT. Website accessibility statements are helpful tools to communicate the steps taken to ensure an accessible website.
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act was the first broad federal disability civil rights law. It prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities by recipients of federal financial assistance. Entities that must comply with Section 504 include state and local governments, higher education institutions, medical and health facilities as well as many more organizations that use federal funds.
Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act was enacted in 1996; it requires federal agencies to make sure that the agency’s ICT is accessible to employees with disabilities and the general public. The law explicitly applies to all ICT that is developed, procured, maintained or used by agencies. People with disabilities must have access to information and data that is comparable to people without disabilities.
The Americans with Disabilities Act was enacted in 1990 and provides for broad civil rights protections to persons with disabilities. It is patterned after prior civil rights laws that afford rights to people based on race, national origin, religion, sex, age and religion. It establishes equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities in public accommodations, employment, transportation, state and local government services and telecommunications. It does not specifically refer to information technology because 1990 was before digital technologies became so entrenched in everyday life. The ADA’s specific requirements for accessibility to communications have been interpreted to mean that digital communications such as websites must be accessible.
Go to Legal Requirements
Accessibility standards define in detail what characteristics are required for ICT to be accessible. The standards are used by technology developers while the ICT is being “built”, and they are used by purchasers or legal compliance officials, among others, to determine whether accessibility requirements have been met. The correct terminology is to say that:
- ICT conforms to accessibility standards;
- the government entity or private business that uses the ICT complies with the law(s) that requires accessibility.
Go to Accessibility Standards
Accessibility Policy Statements and Internal Guidelines
An accessibility statement on the home page is an important way to indicate that an organization or business is aware of accessibility requirements and has taken steps to comply. It demonstrates social responsibility and a commitment to ensuring that all people will be able to make use of the content. It also is a way to provide useful information about how accessibility is approached technically.
Accessibility statements should include:
- The entity’s commitment to accessibility and compliance with accessibility laws;
- What specific standard is followed for web and content accessibility (such as WCAG 2.0 AA);
- Contact information for users to report problems or concerns;
- A link to the entity’s accessibility policy, if published, and/or a link to the website about the accessibility program; and
- If relevant, information about known limitations, technical preconditions, and/or environments that have been tested for accessibility of this website and content.