New Federal Guidance On Electronic Accessibility

The U.S. Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights has issued a 15-question FAQ clarifying its stand on accessibility of electronic reading devices and electronic information in general. The document was announced in “Dear Colleague” letters, sent out to both K12 and post-secondary institutions.

This guidance document is an outgrowth of the 2010 Kindle case, in which the National Federation of the Blind sued several universities for providing students with the Kindle e-reader, which was deemed inaccessible to blind students.

The FAQ spells out conditions under which schools can sponsor electronic technology projects and steps they can take to ensure accessibility (either built into the device, or through a “substantively equivalent” process).

The document affirms that such dedicated reading devices, along with online courses and other web-based information fall under Section 504 of the Rehab Act and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. As “programs and services” of the educational institution, these information sources must be made accessible, analogous to the requirements for physical access to the built environment.

Frequently Asked Questions About the June 29, 2010, Dear Colleague Letter

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