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How the ADA Requires Web Accessibility for Higher Education Institutions

Yes, the ADA Requires Web Accessibility for Higher Education Institutions

An important and often forgotten fact, evidenced by the number of lawsuits against institutions of higher education, is that the ADA requires web accessibility for higher education institutions.

This means that colleges and universities in the U.S. must ensure that their websites and online content, courses, and materials are accessible to people with disabilities, as well as the technologies used inside and outside of the classroom.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), signed into law in 1990, is the most comprehensive of the nation’s disability laws. It prohibits discrimination and ensures equal opportunity for persons with disabilities in employment, state and local government services, public accommodations, commercial facilities, and transportation.

ADA requires web accessibility for higher education institutions
The ADA requires web accessibility for higher education institutions

There are five titles to the ADA:

Title I – Employment
Title II – State and Local Government
Title III – Public Accommodations
Title IV – Telecommunications
Title V – Miscellaneous Provisions

Title II applies to all services, programs, and activities provided to the public by state and local governments. This includes publicly-funded universities, community colleges, and vocational schools.

Title III of the ADA applies to places of public accommodation which include “private entities that offer certain examinations and courses related to educational and occupational certification,” or simply, private universities and trade schools.

Where Web Accessibility Comes in

By way of Title II and III, almost all colleges, universities, and trade schools in the U.S. are required to ensure web accessibility. Providing equal access to information and communication technologies is explicitly required by the following passage:

A public entity shall take appropriate steps to ensure that communications with applicants, participants, members of the public, and companions with disabilities are as effective as communications with others. 28 C.F.R. § 35.160(a)(1)

Furthermore, entities subject to Title II and III are required to provide equally effective communication, regardless of the medium chosen for their communication. Communication by educational institutions includes the transfer of information and encompasses information conveyed through computer-related applications and online learning environments.

This requirement for effective communication is what many of the lawsuits faced by universities are over. When a university does not provide equal access to information, such as by having inaccessible websites, using inaccessible technologies, failing to provide alternatives such as braille textbooks, or failing to caption videos, they are violating federal law.

If universities want to ensure they are providing an equal experience for their students with disabilities, and want to prevent any investigations or litigation, becoming compliant with WCAG 2.0 Level AA is a must.

WCAG 2.0 Level AA is the international accessibility standard designed to ensure baseline accessibility for people with disabilities. As such, Section 508 follows WCAG 2.0 Level A and AA, and the Department of Justice holds public and private universities to WCAG 2.0 Level AA conformance.

Accessibility Resources:

Nicole Flynn

Nicole works in Corporate & Partner Marketing for cielo24. cielo24 delivers video data solutions for media content creators across all industries, and for very special people, like you.