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RE: please help correct a problem?

From: Waddell, Cynthia <cynthia.waddell@ci.sj.ca.us>
Date: Fri, 8 Oct 1999 16:45:43 -0700
Message-ID: <3EC0FC2EAE6AD1118D5100AA00DCD8830345AA34@sj-exchange.ci.sj.ca.us>
To: "'Scott Luebking'" <phoenixl@netcom.com>, asgilman@iamdigex.net, w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
Mr. Luebking-
The statutes, regulations, OCR letters of resolution and case law stemming
from Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, the IDEA and the ADA all impact
education.  Any professor in California who requires a student with a
disability to use a technology that is not compatible with assistive
technology for access to web pages is in violation of a number of civil
rights laws.  The issue is not student preference vs. professor preference.
The issue is equivalent access to the learning environment.  

The civil rights laws require that the professor provide an "academic
adjustment" for access to the learning environment.  This accommodation can
include the professor changing his preference to allow for the use of lynx
and/or the redesign of the webpages to allow lynx to reach the content.

On the other hand, if there is a screenreader that will reach the content of
Javascript, then the school can provide that accommodation as well.  Will
PwWebspeak reach Javascript?  If so, then the school must provide this

The first ADA complaint against a university for internet access was because
the university provided a sighted person to read the web page out loud to a
blind individual.  OCR has made it very clear that this is not an
appropriate accommodation under disability civil rights law.  Please see my
legal update "The Growing Digital Divide in Access for People with
Disabilities:  Overcoming Barriers to Participation" found at

The access laws do not change because of the nature of the audience.  This
can be compared to construction.  A person using a wheelchair must be able
to pass through an accessible door and travel on an accessible route.
Access laws do not change because we build different buildings.  Similarly,
access to the Internet requires a person using a screenreader to access
accessible web pages and navigate through the Internet.

In education, "academic adjustments" are available as a protected right to
students with disabilities.  In employment, "reasonable accommodations" are
available as a protected right to employees with disabilities.  Moreover,
the US Department of Justice says that access to the web is also a
requirement for "effective communication."  The effective communication
rationale is a high burden equally applicable to both business and

I hope these comments are helpful.  Please understand that they are not to
be treated as legal advice.  For specific information on how the civil
rights laws apply to a particular problem at hand, please contact an

Cynthia D. Waddell
Cynthia D. Waddell   
ADA Coordinator
City Manager Department
City of San Jose, CA USA
801 North First Street, Room 460
San Jose, CA  95110-1704
(408)971-0134 TTY
(408)277-3885 FAX

-----Original Message-----
From: Scott Luebking [mailto:phoenixl@netcom.com]
Sent: Friday, October 08, 1999 3:24 PM
To: asgilman@iamdigex.net; w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
Subject: RE: please help correct a problem?

Hi, Al

I agree with you, but then the question becomes a little more
interesting.  Does the definition of accessibility change depending on
the nature of the audience?  The argument that came up was that the WAI
guidelines are for the general population like in a library.  Should
there be a different set of guidelines for a more contained environment
like a class?  (For example, if a company has chosen one browser to be
the corporate browser and programs to that browser, can a blind person
who prefers to use lynx argue that he/she should be allowed to use lynx
as an accomodation?)  Suppose that students used a windows application
which was not required to be accessible.  The developers then move the
application to a web environment using Javascript.  What happens in this
situation?  Most mass spectrometers are inaccessible to blind students.
Can professors be required not to use mass spectrometers?  If the
accomodation for mass spectrometers is having a reader, why cannot the
same accomodation be made to students using highly visual/interactive
web pages?

Some people here at Berkeley are wondering if OCR is making a mistake by
specifying those guidelines.  Could a university argue that OCR is
limited in its technical background to make such decisions if the
definition of accessibility is dependent on the environment?  (At least
a couple of professors here on campus are not very pleased by the web
access issues.  Not a fun meeting.)

Perhaps another variation is when will it be reasonable for a university
to assume that each student must be proficient in using Windows?


> If the issue is scripting, then what the professor proposes fails the
> criterion set down by the regents, because dependency on scripts violates
> > Priority 1 checkpoint (6.3) in the WCAG.
> Check me on that; did I read it right?
> Al
Received on Friday, 8 October 1999 19:49:01 UTC

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