ACE and 12 other higher education associations submitted comments last week in response to a Department of Justice (DOJ) request for input on revising the regulations governing the accessibility of state and local government websites—including those of public universities—under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
DOJ is considering establishing specific technical requirements to make the services, programs and activities offered by public entities over the internet more accessible to people with disabilities.
The community letter expresses support for DOJ's efforts to define public institutions' ADA digital obligations, but notes that the proposed rule poses unique challenges for institutions of higher education. Colleges and universities host and maintain public information and services-oriented websites like those of state and local agencies, but their online presence is more than transactional and control is heavily decentralized. Institutions often lack direct control over the vast amount of content residing on institution-supported servers, such as material uploaded by faculty and students.
The letter offers several possible solutions that take into account the distinct nature of higher education institutions.
DOJ has indicated that the regulations it adopts for public entities will heavily influence subsequent regulations for private colleges and universities.