A History of United States Accessibility Laws

The fight for equal rights for people with disabilities has had plenty of ups and downs across the years. Major accomplishments happened after 1970 when a Washington, D.C. court decides every child has the right to a free education.

Cielo24's infographic outlines a brief timeline of U.S. accessibility laws. Although there are numerous laws that protect individuals with disabilities, there is still progress to be made when it comes to technology.


Mills v. Board of Education of the District of Columbia: Every child is entitled to free public education, regardless of their severity or type of disability.


People with disabilities get civil rights protection. The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in programs conducted by federal agencies, in programs receiving federal financial assistance.


Thanks to The Education for All Handicapped Children Act becoming law, prohibiting disabled children from being excluded from public schools. School districts are now also required to provide special services and resources in an environment which closely resembles average school programs.


After Southeastern Community College v. Davis, the Supreme Court decides programs who receive federal funds have to make "reasonable modifications" to enable the participation of qualified disabled individuals.


Due to The Technology-Related Assistance Act for Individuals with Disabilities becoming a law, state projects that facilitate access to assistive technology receive federal funding.


A monumental step for accessibility happens when The Education for All Handicapped Children Act is changed and updated to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).


When President Clinton signs into law the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, it includes section 508 which requires employees and the public gain access to the Federal government's electronic and information technology.


The definition of who is considered disable broadens when The Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008 becomes law.


The 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act, or CVAA gets signed into law. This requires all programs shown on TV with captions must also include captions when accessible online.


Internet-only companies are proven to be covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act when Netflix is forced to offer closed captions on all TV after losing a lawsuit.

Since most of these laws were passed before technology grew into the essential tool it is today, many activists and lawmakers are working to update them to be applied to all aspects of technology. As these laws evolve, it is important to provide the right resources to people with disabilities in order to guarantee their success in today's society.

Symplicity Accommodate helps higher education institutions modernize their accommodation request process with a fully-ADA compliant interface, and also complies with section 503 and 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. To learn more about how Symplicity is focused on empowering your university to be more inclusive and compliant, download our whitepaper or schedule a conversation with us.

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