U.S. Disabilities Legislation Affecting Electronic and Information Technology

U.S. Disabilities Legislation Affecting Electronic and Information Technology

Deborah Deborah Bursa (Georgia Institute of Technology, USA), Larraine Justice (Georgia Institute of Technology, USA) and Mimi Kessler (Georgia Institute of Technology, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-026-4.ch612
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Abstract

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is the cornerstone legislation to address the civil rights of people with disabilities, including making products, services, and physical environments accessible to them. Almost everyone in the U.S. is familiar with the ADA, but designers of technology products and services need to be aware of accessibility standards that go beyond the ADA: specifically, Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and Section 255 of the Communications Act. These laws define accessibility standards and guidelines that impact the design of electronic, information, and telecommunication technologies, and they are intended to promote products and services that are as accessible to persons with disabilities as those without (Section 508, 1998). Furthermore, with the aging of the U.S. and world populations (Forrester, 2004), the number of people who want to use technology but cannot, because of disabilities, is on the rise. Designers of technology need to understand how modifications in traditional design will make products more marketable and usable by a wider range of customers. This article reviews important aspects of Sections 508 and 255, assistive technology and accessible design, and additional sources of information and training.
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Introduction

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is the cornerstone legislation to address the civil rights of people with disabilities, including making products, services, and physical environments accessible to them. Almost everyone in the U.S. is familiar with the ADA, but designers of technology products and services need to be aware of accessibility standards that go beyond the ADA: specifically, Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and Section 255 of the Communications Act. These laws define accessibility standards and guidelines that impact the design of electronic, information, and telecommunication technologies, and they are intended to promote products and services that are as accessible to persons with disabilities as those without (Section 508, 1998). Furthermore, with the aging of the U.S. and world populations (Forrester, 2004), the number of people who want to use technology but cannot, because of disabilities, is on the rise. Designers of technology need to understand how modifications in traditional design will make products more marketable and usable by a wider range of customers. This article reviews important aspects of Sections 508 and 255, assistive technology and accessible design, and additional sources of information and training.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Section 508: A part of the Rehabilitation Act. Under Section 508, agencies must give employees with disabilities and members of the public access to information that is comparable to the access available to others. The law applies to all federal agencies when they develop, procure, maintain, or use electronic and information technology. For more information, see www.section508.gov .

Disability: Under the ADA, an individual with a disability is a person who: (1) has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; (2) has a record of such an impairment; or (3) is regarded as having such an impairment.

Assistive Technology: Any item, piece of equipment, or system that is commonly used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities. Examples include screen readers, teletypewriters (TTYs), and Braille keyboards.

Universal Design: “A process of creating products (devices, environments, systems, and processes) which are usable by people with the widest possible range of abilities, operating within the widest possible range of situations (environments, conditions, and circumstances), as is commercially practical” ( Vanderheiden & Tobias, 2000 ).

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