ADA and the Internet: Standardizing the Accessibility of Web Sites

40 Pages Posted: 22 Aug 2011 Last revised: 19 Aug 2014

Date Written: May 9, 2011

Abstract

The Department of Justice (DOJ) is currently considering what standards should be applied to commercial web sites to make online information and services accessible to people with disabilities. Should the overall performance of a website be the measuring standard, or would compliance with technical rules be a sufficient measure of web accessibility?

There are dangers in adopting web accessibility technical standards in DOJ regulations. The process of updating regulations is slow and will not keep pace with changing technology. Accessibility issues involving detailed technical standards would likely deteriorate into battles about computer programming techniques. Compliance with technical standards does not necessarily guarantee that a Web site is accessible. Worse still, technical standards in DOJ regulations may be an unconstitutional regulation of commercial speech. For these reasons, the DOJ should adopt performance standards in applying the ADA to web sites.

However, based on the public comments submitted to the Federal Register last year, performance standards are not what the public wants. This paper explores the public opinion, why technical standards in regulations will ultimately weaken the effect of the ADA, and why performance standards in DOJ regulations are the best choice in applying the ADA to web sites.

Keywords: Accessibility, ADA, Americans with Disabilities Act, Disabled, Disability, Web, Website, Standard, Performance, Technical, Commercial Speech, WCAG, Section 508, DOJ, Regulations, Department of Justice, ANPRM

Suggested Citation

Corcoran, Laura, ADA and the Internet: Standardizing the Accessibility of Web Sites (May 9, 2011). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1914705 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1914705

Laura Corcoran (Contact Author)

University of Arizona ( email )

Department of History
Tucson, AZ 85721
United States

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