Department of Justice Aims To Make the Internet Accessible

Thomas E. Perez wants the internet to comply with the ADA.

The Department of Justice intends to issue long-awaited regulations about website accessibility very soon.  These new regulations will force more websites to make their content to available to people with disabilities.

Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice, warns that they are taking on the internet:

It is and has been the position of the Department of Justice since the late 1990s that Title III of the ADA applies to Web sites.   We intend to issue regulations under our Title III authority in this regard to help companies  comply with their obligations to provide equal access.

Companies that do not consider accessibility in their Web site or product development will come to regret that decision, because we intend to use every tool at our disposal to ensure that people with disabilities have equal access to technology and the worlds that technology open up.  [source]

Assistant Attorney General Perez stated that the “Civil Rights Division is once again open for business . . . . [and] [is] busy working on the new ADA regulations, and expect to have them ready to be published very soon.”  [source]

These regulations are a good thing.  Web accessibility makes websites easily accessed by all types of people including those with certain disabilities.  If a website is easily accessible to readers, it will only  increase the overall number of people visiting and returning to the sites.

And even though the regulations are meant to provide greater accessibility to people with disabilities, the regulations will likely have benefits that flow to other users.  We learned this with curb ramps, which were installed to allow people in wheelchairs to have greater access to sidewalks and streets, but are used by people riding bikes; people using walkers or canes, or pushing strollers.

The word on the street is that the new regulations will be published in September.

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~ by siouxsielaw on June 11, 2010.

4 Responses to “Department of Justice Aims To Make the Internet Accessible”

  1. I am not sure these regs. are going to be as useful, as you think.

  2. Guaranteed employment for web accessibility engineers act, I suppose.

    The ADA is well-intentioned, but it sure seems like a waste of government money to make sure that websites are easy for software to read aloud … and make companies worry about getting sued if they aren’t.

    There’s been a furor about people trolling for ADA violations to sue over in California (making a living off of it). I shudder over the consequences of it applied to the internet with Federal jurisdiction.

    Might it scare small businesses off the web entirely? Might not be worth the exposure to a lawsuit under the ADA to have a small website, after all.

    (Remediation would be less expensive than physically rebuilding your premises, of course, so that’s a plus.)

    • You make some good points.

      ADA accessibility for websites is nothing new. As it stands now, any business can be sued for not having an accessible website. Regulations will provide some much-needed clarity though. And that should help businesses (big and small) figure out what, if anything, they need to do.

      And you are right that small businesses will be the ones to bear the most burden. But I don’t think the DOJ would choose to intervene in lawsuits against small businesses. That would be a poor political and practical move. And I don’t know of many attorneys who would want to target a business from which they could never collect their fees.

      As for California, it is a mess.

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