Understanding the Legal Aspects of Web Accessibility
According to Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act "no otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States shall be excluded from, denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity that receives Federal financial assistance". This includes colleges and universities.
The 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination against any qualified individual in areas such as employment, public services, public accommodations, telecommunications and others.
The ADA and Section 504 require colleges and universities to make their services, including Web services, accessible to individuals with disabilities. This means that services offered over the Web must be made accessible, either through the Web site or in some alternate format. Making the Web site itself accessible is the most direct and efficient way to comply with the legal requirements and is in keeping with the guidance provided by the United States Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights.
Questions about what the law requires in specific situations, including accessibility issues, should be addressed to the Office of Vice President and General Counsel at 410-516-8128.