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RE: Americans with Disabilities Act

From: Cynthia Waddell <cynthia.waddell@icdri.org>
Date: Sat, 22 Oct 2005 00:33:24 -0700
To: "Stephen Morgan" <sgsmorgan@idamus.com>, <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <NBECLDKOGKHEKBAEEANNGEAMEEAA.cynthia.waddell@icdri.org>
Dear Stephen-
I am catching up with my email and you may have already received this
information, so I apologize in advance.

Currently I am writing new legal chapters about the US web accessibility
litigation for a book coming out in the Spring.  If your question had been
about Section 508, then I could tell you that the federal government is now
subject to accessible web requirements.  In addition, we now have many
States and local government agencies adopting Section 508 as policy or law.
Whereas the ADA talked about access but had no definitive technical
standards, the Section 508 requirements are specific.  These are the
Electronic and Information Technology Accessibility Standards found at 36
CFR Part 1194 and published at http://www.access-board.gov/508.htm.

Unfortunately, the US is a patchwork of laws when it comes to accessibility
and it depends on the status of the entity creating the website and the
nature of the complaint and complainant as to whether or not they are
subject to litigation for discriminating against people with disabilities.
In the US, courts are split on the purely legal question as to whether or
not the ADA applies to private web sites (or non-governmental web sites).
The First and Seventh Circuits have suggested that web sites can be
considered public accommodations and thus subject to the ADA.  On the other
hand, the Sixth, Third and Ninth Circuits have held otherwise.  Our case law
is behind the times, hence the statement by the U.S. Court of Appeals in the
Southwest Airlines case that this is a significant legal question.

However, if the website is a State or local government web site, the US
Department of Justice (USDOJ), which enforces the ADA, says that the website
should be accessible.  Take a look at the advisory online at their website
at http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/ada/websites2.htm.  You will also see many of
the USDOJ litigation settlement agreements against government agencies
resulting in website accessibility requirements.  See

When I was an ADA Compliance Officer for local government, my office
received one of the first ADA complaints about a City government web site
not being accessible.  In response, my office wrote the first accessible web
design standard in 1996 so I have been following this issue very closely
from the beginning.  The launch of the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative in
1997 certainly was a significant event and their ongoing activities today
have contributed greatly to the effort.

You also need to know that the US Department of Education, Office for Civil
Rights, is the ADA enforcement agency for higher education.  Their
enforcement of the ADA requirements for accessible web vary across the
country.  I cite these cases in my paper "The Growing Digital Divide in
Access for People with Disabilities: Overcoming Barriers to Participation"
and also discuss them in my legal chapters in the book "Constructing
Accessible Web Sites."

I hope this is helpful.

Best regards,
Cynthia Waddell

Cynthia D. Waddell, JD
Executive Director and
Law, Policy and Technology Consultant
International Center for Disability Resources
   on the Internet (ICDRI)
Phone:  (408) 691-6921

ICDRI is based in
Raleigh, North Carolina USA

See my new book!
Constructing Accessible Web Sites

Is your Site Accessible?
Find out now with Cynthia Says! http://www.cynthiasays.com
Endorsed by the American Council of the Blind,
the Cynthia SaysTM portal is a joint Education
and Outreach project of ICDRI, The Internet
Society Disability and Special Needs Chapter,
and HiSoftware.

  -----Original Message-----
  From: w3c-wai-ig-request@w3.org [mailto:w3c-wai-ig-request@w3.org]On
Behalf Of Stephen Morgan
  Sent: Friday, October 21, 2005 2:48 AM
  To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
  Subject: Americans with Disabilities Act


  I have been asked to provide a colleague with some information about the
specific areas of the ADA that relate to online Activities. I know where to
find the relevant info with regards to the DDA over here in the UK but I am
not as familiar with the ADA.

  Anyone got any pointers?

  Kindest regards

  Steve Morgan
Received on Saturday, 22 October 2005 07:33:40 UTC

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