Has the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) provided guidance in addition to the "effective communication" standard that is relevant to the obligation of postsecondary institutions to provide accessible websites?
Yes. In addition to the "effective communication" standard, OCR has, in at least one resolution letter, favorably cited a judicial decision (Tyler v. City of Manhattan, 857 F.Supp. 800 (D.Kan.1994)) in which the court ruled that a postsecondary institution violated its obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) when it only responded on a case-by-case or ad hoc basis to individual requests for accommodation. The Tyler decision also stated that a public entity has an affirmative duty to develop a comprehensive policy in advance of any request. (OCR 09-97-2002.RES) It is important to point out that a favorable citation in a resolution letter does not mean that OCR has a regulation requiring postsecondary institutions to develop an institutional policy concerning accommodation requests. However, it does provide guidance to postsecondary institutions on how OCR might consider the lack of an institutional policy on accommodation in another situation.
In another resolution letter, North Carolina State University agreed to develop a plan with input from appropriate groups, on and off campus, to devise and implement campus-wide accessibility standards for electronic and information technology. The plan was submitted to OCR for review and the agency indicated that the school must include a "process by which the University will ensure comparable access for students with disabilities to official University websites." (OCR 11-98-2046.LLA)
OCR released a comprehensive PowerPoint presentation Web Access Considerations under Section 504 and Title II that represents the most current OCR guidelines on web accessibility considerations under §504 and ADA.
Note: This article is an excerpt from the larger AccessIT document Web Accessibility and Individuals with Disabilities in Postsecondary Education: The Legal Issues.