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[FWD] Universities Legal Web Accessibility Update


From: Sarah Horton
Date: Nov 18, 2003 11:16AM

I thought WebAIM readers might be interested in this unsolicited info-advertisement I received from Usablenet. I found it more than a little troubling that they seem to be promoting their text transcoder as a solution to 504/ADA compliance:

"Basically, you need to offer good access to digital content and offering a text mode would be an easy way to achieve this."

I expect this language will be very enticing to schools who want to/have to make their sites accessible, especially the "easy" part. It's hard work retrofitting a site for accessibility, and most colleges/universities do not have centralized control and resources. The idea of slapping a "text-only version" link on all pages and getting on it is going to sound mightly attractive.

Does anyone else find this troubling?


--- Forwarded Message from <EMAIL REMOVED> ---

>Date: Tue, 18 Nov 2003 05:05:22 -0500
>Subject: Universities Legal Web Accessibility Update

We are seeing an increasing number of Universities create policies
around web accessibility and every day many people ask us, "what are the
legal requirements for our university's website"?

In summary:

You may not need to do as much as you once thought - Section 508 may not
apply to your University or College but Section 504 and the ADA do for
sure. Even if Section 508 does apply to you, you only have to worry
about meeting these standards for content created after June 21st 2001.
See full legal notes below.

With focus on solutions many Universities, including Penn State
University, have adopted a solution to address these two areas:

1. Content not affected by Section 508
Create a text mode dynamically based on the graphics mode: LIFT Text
Transcoder - see the Penn State page and how they use this tool:
Get a product demo:

2. Content affected by Section 508
Provide web designers with a tool that plugs into their authoring
environment and builds compliant content as-they-go: - see how Penn
State is using LIFT for Dreamweaver:
Get product demo: http://www.usablenet.com/frontend/demoform.jsp

Below we have outlined in detail, the current legal standards for US
Colleges and Universities in order to help you determine what you need
to do with YOUR content.

1. Does a University web site have to be Section 508 Compliant?

No! UNLESS you are a State Entity in a State that receives funds under
the Tech Act.

(Section 508 applies to Federal departments and agencies and does not
apply to recipients of Federal funds. However, states receiving Federal
funds under the Tech Act are required to comply with Section 508.

2. So, if Section 508 does not apply to my University, then what does?
And what do I have to do to meet those requirements?

You must comply with the standards set by Section 504 of the
Rehabilitation Act and the ADA.

Basically, you need to offer good access to digital content and offering
a text mode would be an easy way to achieve this.

Specifically the U.S. Department of Justice (USDOJ) has issued only one
policy ruling letter concerning web site accessibility, dated September
9, 1996 - Under the rationale of "effective communication", the USDOJ
Letter states that ADA Titles II and III require state and local
government entities and the business sector (including Universities) to
effectively reach all users when communicating via the Internet. The
effective communication rule applies to entities using the Internet to
convey information about their programs, goods or services and they must
be prepared to do so via an accessible medium.

Specifically addressing the needs of people with visual disabilities,
the USDOJ Letter points out that providing a text format rather than a
graphical format ensures the accessibility of the Internet for
individuals using screen readers.
(source: http://www.icdri.org/CynthiaW/the_digital_divide.htm)

3. If Section 508 applies to my University what do I have to do?

If you are a State Entity and your state receives funds under the Tech
Act then you have to follow the content requirements set out under
section 508 for content created AFTER June 21st 2001. See:
All content created prior to this date is not subject to Section 508 but
would be covered by Section 504 and the ADA (see #2 above)

4. Are there any other laws that I need to be aware of?

Yes, if you are a State Entity, you may be affected by a Law that has
been passed in your individual state. You should check with your State
CIO office for an update on what is required.

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