RLI 281 10
US and Canadian Disability Policies, Recent Challenges, and
US and Canadian Copyright Law
n the US, there are a number of laws that serve as the basis of federal policy for persons with
disabilities. These include the ADA of 1990, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and a 1998
amendment to the Rehabilitation Act (Section 508). Combined, these statutes and amendments ensure
accessibility for individuals with disabilities to public accommodations, services, employment, and more.
In addition to federal law, many states have implemented accessibility statutes and regulations.
The ADA mandates the elimination of discrimination on the basis of disability. Titles I, II, and III
of the ADA prohibit discrimination against individuals under certain circumstances. Title I prohibits
discrimination in public and private employment against individuals with disabilities. Title II of the
ADA provides individuals with disabilities with an equal opportunity to benefit from all state and
local government programs, services, and activities. Finally, Title III prohibits discrimination against
individuals with disabilities regarding the “full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities,
privileges, advantages, or accommodations” of any public accommodations, including private,
postsecondary institutions. Thus, research libraries in public and private institutions must comply with
selected ADA provisions.
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in
programs and activities by those entities that receive federal financial assistance. Pell Grants and Federal
Work Study grants are examples of federal assistance via the Department of Education relating to higher
Finally, Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1998 relates to access to federally funded
programs and services. The amendment requires that the electronic and information technologies
that an agency develops, procures, maintains, and/or uses must be accessible to federal employees
and all members of the public. Since Section 508 was enacted, 20 states have enacted similar laws and
The US Department of Justice (DOJ) Civil Rights Division and the US Department of Education (ED)
Office of Civil Rights share oversight and enforcement of legal provisions relating to individuals with
disabilities at colleges and universities. For example, the DOJ is responsible for enforcement of Title
III of the ADA relating to private universities and colleges, and both departments jointly enforce legal
requirements under Title II of the ADA applicable to public universities; additionally, ED oversees Section
504 regarding public and private educational institutions that receive financial aid from the Department
of Education. Finally, the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) issued guidance “Making
Museums and Libraries More Accessible“ in February 2011.16
Recent Challenges to Institutional Practices
Over the last two years, there have been a growing number of complaints filed by print-disabled
individuals in academic and non-academic institutions regarding use of inaccessible IT products and
services. Settlements have favored those filing the complaints. There are several outstanding challenges,
and it is likely that more will be forthcoming, given the tension between rapidly changing IT products
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