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Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance

Contributor(s): Matthew Haughn

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance is adherence to the standards put forth forth in the United States legislation.

The ADA mandates accessibility for disabled persons and applies to all public businesses and entities that provide “places of public accommodation.” The Act includes the internet in “places of public accommodation.” Access to information and information technology (IT) are therefore covered by the act.

The ADA was originally signed into law by George H.W. Bush in July 26, 1990. The Act is one of the most comprehensive pieces of legislation put forth in the U.S. The ADA ensures persons with physical or mental disabilities have accessibility to mainstream American life including employment opportunities, the ability to purchase goods and services and the ability to participate in State and local government programs and services free from discrimination. The Act is modeled on the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which was designed to ensure freedom from discrimination due to race, skin color, religion or national origin. ADA also includes elements of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. 

While most commonly applied to the real world, the Act also applies to IT and the internet. ADA may apply to individual websites although specific regulations have not yet been created. After an accessibility case involving Netflix, the Act was revised in 2010. A statement was released regarding individual sites: "The Department is currently developing regulations specifically addressing the accessibility of goods and services offered via the web by entities covered by the ADA. The fact that the regulatory process is not yet complete in no way indicates that web services are not already covered by title III." — Statement of Interest of the United States Department of Justice in NAD v. Netflix (page 10)

This was last updated in December 2017

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