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Re: [FWD] Universities Legal Web Accessibility Update


From: Paul Bohman
Date: Nov 20, 2003 12:37PM

The National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR)
issued a letter on June 30, 1999 regarding the assurance that all states
submitted to the federal government in order to receive money through
the Technology Assistance Act (Tech Act) of 1988.

The letter is reprinted at

Here are some notable quotes:

"By way of explanation, section 103(d)(6) of the Tech Act required
States to submit an assurance that the State, or any recipient of funds
made available to the State, would comply with guidelines established
under section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (29 U.S.C. 794d).
Section 508 was reauthorized by the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of
1998 (Public Law 105-220) in August of 1998. The new 508 language has
been broadened and strengthened.
Thus, States that receive ATAct funding must continue to comply with the
requirements of section 508 by ensuring that their electronic and
information technology is accessible. This includes compliance with the
standards to be issued and published by the Access Board.
We hope this letter clarifies the Department's position regarding the
States' section 508 obligations as they relate to the ATAct grantees."


So, though there is still some legal debate surrounding the issue, the
letter states the case rather clearly.

By virtue of being state entities, state colleges and universities would
be required to comply with Section 508, if this letter is taken at face

I am not completely familiar with all of the arguments that propose that
Section 508 does not apply to colleges or universities, but part of the
issue is a simple matter of scale--it is easier for states to make their
state government sites accessible than it is for them to enforce the
accessibility of all of the colleges and universities within the state.
It could also be argued, I suppose, that some colleges and universities
are not receiving any of the Tech Act funds directly. While I think
these points may be valid, they seem rather weak to me from a legal
perspective, especially in light of the letter quoted above. Lawyers of
various persuasions will undoubtedly have their own opinions on the
matter (we'd love to hear from you if you fit that description!).

STILL, there is no doubt that colleges and universities are bound by
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, which states that it is illegal
to discriminate against students with disabilities, and that equal
access must be provided to the opportunities and materials available
within the college/university experience. Section 504 does not mention
the Web specifically (the legislation predated the popularity of the
Web), but in my mind the Web definitely falls in the category of
materials and resources that need to be made available to all students,
and if such access is denied, I think this constitutes discrimination,
and violates Section 504.

sean keegan wrote:

> Just a question&
> Does anyone have any citations (from either DOJ or Access Board)
demonstrating how Section 508 applies to the states via the Tech Act? I

Paul Ryan Bohman
Technology Coordinator
WebAIM (Web Accessibility in Mind)
Center for Persons with Disabilities
Utah State University

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