What are the laws that cover digital accessibility?

California Government Code 11135

No person in the State of California shall, on the basis of race, national origin, ethnic group identification, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, color, genetic information, or disability, be unlawfully denied full and equal access to the benefits of, or be unlawfully subjected to discrimination under, any program or activity that is conducted, operated, or administered by the state or by any state agency, is funded directly by the state, or receives any financial assistance from the state. Notwithstanding Section 11000, this section applies to the California State University.

In order to improve accessibility of existing technology, and therefore increase the successful employment of individuals with disabilities, particularly blind and visually impaired and deaf and hard-of-hearing persons, state governmental entities, in developing, procuring, maintaining, or using electronic or information technology, either indirectly or through the use of state funds by other entities, shall comply with the accessibility requirements of Section 508 of the federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended (29 U.S.C. Sec. 794d), and regulations implementing that act as set forth in Part 1194 of Title 36 of the Federal Code of Regulations.

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Section 508 of the U.S. Rehabilitation Act

In 1998, Congress amended the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to require Federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology (EIT) accessible to people with disabilities. Inaccessible technology interferes with an ability to obtain and use information quickly and easily. Section 508 was enacted to eliminate barriers in information technology, open new opportunities for people with disabilities, and encourage development of technologies that will help achieve these goals. The law applies to all Federal agencies when they develop, procure, maintain, or use electronic and information technology. Under Section 508 (29 U.S.C. 794 d), agencies must give disabled employees and members of the public access to information that is comparable to access available to others. It is recommended that you review the laws and regulations listed below to further your understanding about Section 508 and how you can support implementation.

More about Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act.

(Section 508 is about to undergo a "Refresh", which is believed to take effect prior to the end of 2014. Here is some information about the Proposed Refresh of Section 508)

The Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA)

The CVAA updates federal communications law to increase the access of persons with disabilities to modern communications. The CVAA makes sure that accessibility laws enacted in the 1980s and 1990s are brought up to date with 21st century technologies, including new digital, broadband, and mobile innovations.

More about The Twenty-First Century Communications Video Accessibility Act (CVAA).

Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act

Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act, which took effect in 1996, requires telecommunications products and services to be accessible to people with disabilities to the extent access is "readily achievable," meaning easily accomplishable, without much difficulty or expense. If manufacturers cannot make their products accessible, then they must design them to be compatible with adaptive equipment used by people with disabilities, where readily achievable. Examples of products Section 255 covers include telephones, pagers, fax machines, modems, and telephone company switching equipment. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) enforces Section 255.

More about Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act.

Sections 501 and 505 of the U.S. Rehabilitation Act

Section 501 prohibits employment discrimination against individuals with disabilities in the federal sector. Section 505 contains provisions governing remedies and attorney's fees under Section 501.

More about Sections 501 and 505 of the Rehabilitation Act.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Prohibits discrimination and ensures equal opportunity for persons with disabilities in employment, state and local government services, public accommodations, commercial facilities, and transportation. The ADA requires that reasonable accommodations be provided in meeting the needs of individuals with disabilities.

More about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

California State Policies and Reference Manual:

Office of the State CIO, Information Technology (IT) Policy Letter 10-10

Agencies shall ensure compliance with laws, regulations, and policies regarding accessibility to digital content and to IT applications for state employees and the public in accordance with Section 4833 of the State Administrative Manual (PDF).

More about IT Policy Letter 10-10 (PDF).

California Technology Agency, IT Accessibility Resource Guide SIMM Section 25

This Resource Guide is intended to provide an overview of digital accessibility, drawing from and identifying the extensive information already available. Federal and state governments, as well as the higher education communities, have been working even before the enactment of Section 508 in 1998 to improve the accessibility of electronic and information technology for persons with disabilities.

The Resource Guide references excerpted quotes applicable to the topics discussed, along with links to the source materials for further reference. In many cases, additional links to specific language on accessibility requirements or policies are also included for individuals interested in pursuing the topics further.

More about SIMM Section 25 (PDF).