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  • Which IT Accessibility Laws Affect Your Industry the Most?

    A stack of green books with the following words on each of the spines: Policy, Guidelines, Practices, Standards, Rules, Regulations, and Compliance.

    As some recent lawsuits have revealed, different IT accessibility laws affect certain industries more than others.

    We recently conducted a webinar with Owen Edwards, Senior Accessibility Consultant at SSB BART Group, and Lily Bond of 3Play Media, which focused on how recent lawsuits impact video and IT accessibility requirements. Based on that presentation, we’ve gone ahead and broken down exactly which US laws are most likely to affect organizations associated with the Online Video, Entertainment, and Education industries so that those general requirements are a little easier to understand.

    Online Video

    Key Legislation

    • Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
    • 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA)

    In 2010, Netflix was sued by the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) for not providing closed captions for most of its “watch-instantly” movies and TV shows streamed on the internet.

    The ultimate ruling was that Netflix’s business fell under Title III of the ADA. The judge determined that Netflix’s online video streaming platform qualified as “a place of public accommodation,” just like a movie theater would.

    The CVAA is a little different in that it extends the powers of the FCC to only a specific category of online video. But, it affects many more organizations than just video streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon. According to this law, any video content that your organization disseminates, or puts on the internet, that previously aired on US television (including video clips and montages), must include high-quality closed captioning.


    Key Legislation

    • Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
    • Individual State Laws

    In 2012, Redbox Automated Retail LLC was sued by Lighthouse for the Blind, and other individuals, for the inaccessible touchscreens on their DVD dispenser kiosks.

    Under Title III of the ADA, these kiosks are considered places of public accommodation. Additionally, California’s Civil Rights and Disabled Persons laws prevent discrimination against disabled people who use certain private facilities.

    Before the lawsuit, blind/low vision customers who wanted to purchase DVDs to watch alone or with their families were denied access to these machines due to the lack of aural cues on the touchscreen. Redbox settled the case in 2014 by agreeing to modify all of their kiosks in California to include non-visual accessibility features, in addition to paying $1.2 million in damages.

    Education and eLearning

    Key Legislation:

    • Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
    • Title III Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
    • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act
    • Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act

    Public Institutions

    Both the Office of Civil Rights and the Department of Justice have been very aggressively pursuing public schools and universities over the accessibility of their IT and online content recently. At least 15 of those pursuits currently have lawsuits or settlements in place. Most of these complaints and lawsuits invoke Section 504 and 508 of the Rehabilitation Act because they involve federally funded institutions.

    The OCR filed a complaint against the University of Montana in 2012 for a number of inaccessible IT violations including videos that lacked closed captions. The South Carolina Technical College System received a similar complaint from the OCR for videos without captions and for using an inaccessible media player. Both of these cases resulted in the institution taking corrective action to make their IT accessible to its students with disabilities.

    Private Institutions

    Private institutions must adhere to ADA regulations that require certain web and video content to be accurate. They are not required to follow Section 504 and 508 guidelines if they do not directly receive federal funding. However, some argue that since individual states fund IT programs at private institutions, and considering states receive federal funding through the Assistive Technology Act, private institutions are indirectly required to make their IT accessible through the Rehabilitation Act.

    The current landmark lawsuit that may lead to case law which could really clear up these legal ambiguities is the NAD vs MIT/Harvard case. The upcoming Section 508 Refresh will also help shed some light on how exactly public and private schools are expected to address IT accessibility from a federal law perspective.

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