Is it reasonable to use an ad hoc approach to accessibility of electronic and information technology?
It is unlikely that electronic resources in educational institutions, libraries, and other organizations will be accessible to students and employees with disabilities without the establishment of specific policies and/or procedures. As technology applications become ubiquitous and multimedia is the norm, an ad hoc approach to accessibility becomes increasingly less effective.
Institutions can follow the leadership of the federal government in being proactive in making their electronic and information technology accessible to people with disabilities. In its document Information Technology and People with Disabilities: The Current State of Federal Accessibility, the U.S. Department of Justice recommends that federal agencies discontinue an ad hoc approach.
Use of an "ad hoc" or "as needed" approach to IT accessibility will result in barriers for persons with disabilities. A much better approach is to integrate accessibility reviews into the earliest stages of design, development, and procurement of IT.
Also, the U.S.Department of Education Office for Civil Rights, in a letter to California State University, Los Angeles, said this:
The courts have held that a public entity violates its obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act when it simply responds to individual requests for accommodation on an ad-hoc basis. A public entity has an affirmative duty to establish a comprehensive policy in compliance with Title II in advance of any request for auxiliary aids or services [see Tyler v. City of Manhattan, 857 F. Supp. 800 (D. Kan. 1994)].
For more information on developing policies and procedures, consult the following AccessIT Knowledge Base articles:
- How can our school or district go about developing an accessible electronic and information technology policy?
- SMSU: A Promising Practice on Building Accessibility into Mainstream IT Policies
- Oregon State University: A Promising Practice in Establishing Information Technology Accessibility Guidelines
- California Community Colleges: A Promising Practice for Distance Education Accessibility Guidelines
- California Community Colleges: A Promising Practice for Alternate Media Accessibility Guidelines
- Promising Practice: A Product Accessibility Template
- Michigan Virtual University: A Promising Practice in Developing Standards for Online Courses