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US Department of Justice Opinion on applicability of Americans with Disabilities Act to the issue of Web accessibility

This US Department of Justice opinion was published in the (U.S.) National Disability Law Reporter, Volume 10 Issue 6, September 11, 1997

Judy Brewer

This page last updated September 22, 1998

Posted in the National Disability Law Reporter, Vol. 10, Iss. 6, par. 240
September 11, 1997  1053-1084/97

The Honorable Tom Harkin
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510-1502

Digest of Inquiry
(July 31, 1996)

To what extent does the ADA require that Internet web pages be accessible
to people with visual disabilities?

Digest of Response
(September 9, 1996)

ADA Accessibility Requirements Apply to Internet Web Pages

Entities to Title II or III of the ADA must provide effective communication
to individuals with disabilities, and covered entities that use the
Internet to provide information regarding their programs, goods or services
must be prepared to offer those communications through accessible means.
Such entities may provide web page information in text format that is
accessible to screen reading devices that are used by people with visual
impairments, and they may also offer alternative accessible formats that
are identified in a screen-readable format on a web page.


Text of Inquiry

I have recently been contacted by one of my constituents who has a concern
over the administration's policy on making Web pages compatible for the
disabled.  I respectfully ask you to review the administration's policy on
this issue and send me a clarification so that I might be able to respond
to my constituent's questions.  It would be helpful if you could mark your
correspondence with my office to the attention of Laura Stuber.
Thank you in advance for your assistance on this matter.

Text of Response

I am responding to your letter on behalf of your constituent, [],
regarding accessibility of "web pages" on the Internet to people with
visual disabilities.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires State and local
governments and places of public accommodation to furnish appropriate
auxiliary aids and services where necessary to ensure effect communication
with individuals with disabilities, unless doing so would result in a
fundamental alteration to the program or service or in an undue burden.  28
C.F.R. Sec. 36.303; 28 C.F.R. Sec. 35.160.  Auxiliary aids include taped
texts, Brailled materials, large print materials, and other methods of
making visually delivered material available to people with visual
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.
Mr. [] suggests compatibility with the Lynx browser as a means of assuring
accessibility of the Internet.  Lynx is, however, only one of many
available options.  Other examples include providing the web page
information in text format, rather then exclusively in graphic format.
Such text is accessible to screen reading devices used by people with
visual impairments.  Instead of providing full accessibility through the
Internet directly, covered entities may also offer other alternate
accessible formats, such as Braille, large print, and/or audio materials,
to communicate the information contained in web pages to people with visual
impairments.  The availability of such materials should be noted in a text
(i.e., screen-readable) format on the web page, along with instructions for
obtaining the materials, so that people with disabilities using the
Internet will know how to obtain the accessible formats.

cc: Records, Chrono, Wodtach, McDowdeny, Hill, FOIA
sc. young-parran

The Internet is an excellent source of information and, of course, people
with disabilities should have access to it as effectively as people without
disabilities.  A number of web sites provide information about
accessibility of web pages, including information about new developments
and guidelines for development of accessible web pages.  Examples include:

Center for Information Technology Accommodation
General Services Administration
Trace Center, University of Wisconsin



These sites may be useful to you or your constituent in exploring the
accessibility options on the Internet.  In addition, the Department of
Justice has established an ADA home page to educate people about their
rights and responsibilities under the ADA and about the Department's
efforts to implement the ADA.  The address of the ADA home page is

I hope this information is helpful to you in responding to your constituent.

Deval L. Patrick
Assistant Attorney General
Civil Rights Division