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The Law, Litigation, & You - Getting started understanding the impact of accessibility

Questionmark graphic over the outline of a computer monitor indicating questions about electronic accessibility.

I have been asked, "How do I get started? How do I wrap my arms around the legal side of things?"

Let's examine three aspects to legal ramifications within the U.S. for accessibility compliance: the law, the refresh, and litigation.


Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Amended in 1998 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990

Both the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended in 1992 and 1998, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 are civil rights laws protecting individuals with disabilities from discrimination.

Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act (29 U.S.C.'794 d), as amended by the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (P.L. 105-220), August 7, 1998, ( and the .pdf file at applies to all Federal agencies when they develop, procure, maintain, or use electronic and information technology.

Refresh of the Law

On January 18, 2017, the Access Board published a final rule that jointly updates requirements covered by Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and Section 255 of the Communications Act.

Note: Section 255 is the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Communications Act establishing guidelines for Telecommunications Access for People with Disabilities.


As reported by Electronic Document Compliance Services (EDCS), law suits can be filed on behalf of individuals outside of or inside your organization.

As reported on Brailleworks, from 2009 through 2013, there have been 16 suits brought.

Related lawsuits include lack of captioning by Harvard and MIT in which the Department of Justice reversed its position in favor of the plaintiff.


Action Steps

Businesses must weigh many factors to be responsive to customers and avoid lawsuits.

1) Make contacting you easy for users by having a contact form page on your website or application (and provide the contact form page URL within any documentation for your application). Equally effective is to include contact information, either email or phone, within the footer of your website.

2) When you are contacted with an accessibility request or usability comment, respond immediately in a welcoming fashion listing the actions you will take along with an approximate timeline. Request the user provide any additional system information needed for you to understand impacts and what you will be supporting.

3) If the user lists an assistive technology device or software, contact the maker and work with them to fully understand the situation.

4) Follow-up on your promise by making changes and notifying the user as well as posting the accessibility updates on your website, on the About page of your application, and within your documentation.

5) Keep your attorney informed of every user contact and plan you implement.


Additional Resources

Law Office of Lainey Feingold, Structured Negotiation | Disability Rights

3PlayMedia, Resources page

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