Last Updated on July 19, 2015.

Legal Aspects of Web Page Design

By the time the Judge slams his gavel down, it's too late! Here are the legal aspects to consider.The Internet was developed in the 1960s as a way for United States government authorities to communicate in the event of nuclear war. It was purposely designed with no central authority so independent sites could continue operating even if missiles knocked out some sites. Because there is no central authority controlling the Internet, each entity with a Web site is seen as a separate entity when determining whether a site is compelled by federal law to be accessible.

One such federal law is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990. The ADA gives civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities. It guarantees equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities in public accommodations, employment, transportation, state and local government services, and telecommunications.

Assistant Attorney General Deval L. Patrick of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, which enforces part of the ADA, issued a policy statement in response to an inquiry from U.S. Senator Tom Harkin. The September 9, 1996, letter stated that "covered entities under the ADA are required to provide effective communication, regardless of whether they generally communicate through print media, audio media, or computerized media such as the Internet. Covered entities that use the Internet for communications regarding their programs, goods, or services must be prepared to offer those communications through accessible means as well."

A second federal law is the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibits discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities who work in the federal government.

A 1998 amendment to section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act requires the Attorney General to report to the President on accessibility of federal electronic and information technology such as federal web sites, telecommunications, software, hardware, printers, fax machines, copiers, and information kiosks to people with disabilities.

(Additional reference: The United States Department of Justice's Section 508 Home Page)

Source: The Job Accommodation Network (JAN).

Last Updated on July 19, 2015.

Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794d, as amended.

Section 508

Section 508 states that electronic and information technology that is developed, procured, maintained or used by federal agencies must be accessible to federal employees and members of the public with disabilities, unless compliance would impose an undue burden.