Recently the U.S. Court of Appeals made a ruling on Enyart v. The National Conference of Bar Examiners that upheld the right of a blind law school graduate student to use specific assistive technology – in this case JAWS and ZoomText – when taking a licensing exam. The impact of the ruling is that users with disabilities have a clear right to take a test using assistive technology they are directly familiar with when preventing this would make the test accessible. This ensures the examination is administered in a fashion that allows an accurate gauge of the individual’s efficacy and domain knowledge not their disability.
The 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 focuses on ensuring that communications and media services, content, equipment, emerging technologies, and new modes of transmission are accessible to disabled users. The bill is primarily targeted at communications and video equipment manufacturers, video service providers and producers of video content. The act requires that all communications and video programming service or equipment providers must provide services and equipment in an equally accessible manner to ensure compliance with government regulations for accessibility. The act builds on a variety of current pieces of legislation relating to accessibility including Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act amending and extending them as needed.
The ANPRM issued by the OFCCP indicates a strong increase in the strength of the regulations relating to Section 503 and their application to Federal contractors and suppliers. A conservative stance should assume that US Federal contractors and sub-contractors will be required to make both applicant facing systems and internal IT systems accessible to people with disabilities or face the loss of all public sector contracts.
The OFCCP is a program within the US Department of Labor that enforces the contractual requirements placed on US Federal government contractors and sub-contractors relating to the equal employment of individuals with disabilities. The activities of the OFCCP are principally driven by the requirements of Section 503 and the Americans with Disabilities Act. If you generate revenue directly or indirectly from the US Federal Government you should be aware of the OFCCP.
This post provides an overview of Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act. Section 503 requires that any contract that the US Federal Government enters into require the contractor to take affirmative action to employ, and advance in employment, individuals with disabilities. The law applies to any prime contract or sub-contract over $10,000 in value. Enforcement is both active – with compliance audits – and reactive based on complaints from individuals with disabilities. There are some narrow exceptions to the requirements but they are unlikely to apply to most modern contracting organizations.