1998 Conference Proceedings

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Legal Rights of Access to Electronic & Telecommunications Technology

Frances E. Pennell, J.D.
Washington Assistive Technology Alliance Box
357920 Seattle, Washington 98195-7920
fpennell@u.washington.edu 
(206)685-4181

New developments in electronic and telecommunications technology offer great potential for people with disabilities -- provided that these technologies are accessible - ie., usable! Too often, however, public agencies, private employers and retail establishments implement such technologies without thinking about accessibility issues. The result is that people with disabilities are denied equal access to public accommodations, employment opportunities and public information and services.

My presentation will identify and briefly describe the legal tools available to enforce rights of access by people with disabilities to electronic and telecommunications technologies. The term, electronic and telecommunications technologies, includes the many technologies that we use (or would like to use) in our daily lives including, for example: computer hardware and software, user interfaces, telephones, information kiosks, websites, CD-Roms, voice mail, email, videos, video-conferencing etc. I also will be discussing the development of technologies that will allow people with disabilities (including people who are blind or low vision) to cast a secret ballot without personal assistance.

The legal tools we will discuss include the familiar disability rights statutes (such as Titles I, II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); Sections 501, 503 and 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)). We also will be discussing the application of legislation directed specifically at technology access including Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. The presentation will provide an outline of the basic legal tools and a summary of recent case law developments.

My overriding theme is: We have many of the legal tools we need! Lets start to use them! A copy of my paper will be available on the Washington Assistive Technology Alliance (http://wata.org) website prior to the conference.


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