Back on July 26, 1990, the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law. It was comprehensive legislation that created civil rights legal protections for people with disabilities prohibiting all discrimination. Many people have come to me asking me to make their website ADA accessible. While the ADA has specific guidelines for compliance when it comes to physical access, there is no such thing as ADA accessibility regarding websites. The ADA is quiet in regards to electronic access because of its timing. In 1990, the Internet barely existed and it was mainly confined to text based email for research purposes. The ADA has no guidelines for Web accessibility because electronic accessibility was not even on the radar.
Of course, everything has now changed. The Internet is everywhere and there are now specific guidelines for Web accessibility including the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 1.0 and 2.0, the Federal Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act Web Accessibility guidelines and the Illinois Information Technology Accessibility Act (IITAA) Web Accessibility guidelines. UIC is covered by law under the IITAA Web accessibility guidelines.
Still, the ADA is quiet concerning Web accessibility, thus, no one can claim their site is ADA accessible. This is destined to change in the near future. This Educause article outlines the momentum that is occurring: ADA Web Accessibility Regs Likely Just A Matter of Time.
There is no going back; Web accessibility is not only important now but in the future. Adding Web accessibility into your development process using the guidelines that do exist from WCAG, Section 508 and IITAA will never be a wasted effort.