Does the information on public websites, intranets, and distance learning courses at postsecondary institutions have to be accessible to visitors with disabilities?

Date Updated

The short answer to this is yes. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (§504) prohibit postsecondary institutions from discriminating against individuals with disabilities. The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in the U.S. Department of Education has indicated through complaint resolution agreements and other documents that institutions covered by the ADA and §504 that use the Internet for communication regarding their programs, goods, or services, must make that information accessible. In an OCR settlement agreement, the federal agency stated that whether the communication is via media, print, or the Internet, postsecondary institutions must "effectively communicate" with individuals with disabilities including students, faculty, staff and the wider community. (OCR 09-95-2206.RES)

The Civil Rights Division, Disability Rights Section, in the Department of Justice (DOJ) has just recently issued a document entitled Accessibility of State and Local Government Websites to People with Disabilities. In this document, DOJ states that state and local governments are required under the ADA and §504 to provide "equal access to their programs, services, or activities unless doing so would fundamentally alter the nature" of these programs, services or activities or "would impose an undue burden." This equal access obligation covers access to the information on governmental—that is, public postsecondary institutional—websites.