Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Feds to Propose Rules Making Internet Disabled-Friendly

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Feds to Propose Rules Making Internet Disabled-Friendly

Article excerpt

The Internet--the ubiquitous infrastructure for information and commerce--has transformed our way of life. This marvelous tool plays a critical role in the daily personal, professional, civic, and business life of Americans.

Private businesses offer and provide goods and services to the public through their websites, and practically all public entities, governmental agencies and departments use websites to provide the public access to their programs, services, and activities.

Beyond goods and services, information available on the Internet has become a gateway to education, art, healthcare, social networking, entertainment, politics, government, and just about any other subject, discipline, or area of interest you can think of. With the click of a mouse, the Internet makes a world of information available to us on the screen of a monitor.

But what if a disability makes it difficult or impossible for a person to use a mouse, or see a monitor screen?

For individuals with such disabilities, as well as those who experience barriers to their ability to travel or to leave their homes, the Internet may be their only way to access certain goods and services or retrieve vital healthcare or other important information. However, many websites of places of public accommodations, such as restaurants, hotels, movie theaters, and schools, make the use of the websites by individuals with disabilities difficult or impossible because the websites were designed without accessible features. The same holds true for websites of many government agencies and departments.

Justice Department Considers New Rules

On July 26 the U.S. Department of Justice (the "DOJ") released what is called an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking ("ANPRM")--the step before the DOJ actually proposes specific new rules under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") and asks the public to comment on them. The DOJ notes that the Internet has evolved substantially since the ADA took effect in 1990, and that the Department has received numerous comments urging it to establish Web accessibility provisions.

The ANPRM therefore seeks information regarding what standards, if any, the DOJ should adopt for website accessibility, whether the Department should adopt coverage limitations for certain entities, like small businesses, and what resources and services are available to make existing websites accessible to individuals with disabilities. The DOJ also asks for comments on the costs of making websites accessible, whether there are effective and reasonable alternatives to make websites accessible that the Department should consider permitting, and when any Web accessibility requirements adopted by the Department should become effective. …

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