Policies, Laws & Standards

 

Federal Law

This University of Colorado Denver and Anschutz Medical Campus' Non-Discrimination policy is consistent with federal civil rights laws, specifically Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA). Section 504 prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in programs and activities receiving financial assistance from the federal government. The ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability by employers (Title I), public entities (Title II), and places of public accommodation (Title III), all of which apply to the UW.  Both Section 504 and the ADA require that the university provide equal opportunity to individuals with disabilities to participate in, and receive the benefits of, the educational program, and require that the university provide accommodation or modifications when necessary to ensure equal treatment.

When both of these laws were passed, IT had not yet attained the prevalence that it now has throughout society, including education, and neither law explicitly mentions IT accessibility.  The Department of Education has issued guidance that states that its long-standing nondiscrimination requirements mean that when schools use technology to provide educational benefits, services, or opportunities, that technology must be fully accessible to students with disabilities.  Although accommodations or modifications can also be made to ensure equal access, this accommodation must ensure that the benefits of the educational program are provided to these students in an equally effective and equally integrated manner. 

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has proposed new rules that will explicitly define the requirements for web accessibility under the ADA.  An announcement regarding these new rules was expected from the DOJ in 2013, but as of January 2014 none has been issued.

Policies

Many colleges and universities have created policies related to accessibility. Some are specifically related to IT; others are more general. For example, the University of Colorado issued an administrative policy on digital accessibility on January 1, 2019, approved by the president. The policy states:

In addition to complying with the law, CU is ethically committed to communicating information to all individuals in a manner that enables them to achieve their academic and professional goals and aspirations. To maximize CU’s potential to achieve its legal and ethical commitments in the digital environment, the university has established the following policy to complement its digital accessibility program. 

 

To ensure that all faculty, staff, students, and members of the public have equal opportunity, our programs must be designed in such a way that everyone has access, including when access is via technology.

For additional examples see our annotated list of Example Policies in Higher Education.

Given the CU's commitment to providing accessible opportunities and environments, it looks to the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1 (Level AA) as a target for meeting these commitments related to web and IT accessibility.

Other Resources Related to Laws and Policies

Some higher education institutions have faced legal action in the form of resolutions or lawsuits related to their IT accessibility.  The following pages were developed in order to organize this information so that we and other institutions might learn from it and apply it to our own accessibility efforts.

Resolution Agreements and Lawsuits
Provides a comprehensive summary of legal cases related to technology accessibility, especially in higher education

Legal Cases by Issue
Features a list of key issues that have surfaced in legal resolution agreements involving higher education institutions and technology accessibility.

Also, EDUCAUSE, the association for information technology in higher education, has published a document titled IT Accessibility Risk Statements and Evidence in order to help identify accessibility risks that IT leaders should consider in their risk management process.