Sign In

Communications of the ACM

Contributed articles

Legal Aspects of Interface Accessibility in the U.S.

accessibility ramp


Asking "why is accessibility so hard?," Vinton G. Cerf explored some of the design challenges associated with building interfaces for users with disabilities.2 As real as these difficulties may be, they fail to tell the whole story. The technical complexity of making interfaces accessible to people with visual, auditory, motor, or cognitive impairments is matched by a daunting regulatory and legal framework. In the U.S., accessibility is the subject of the numerous federal statutes, regulations, and reports that define implementation of complex legislation. A growing body of legal precedents, as well as state and local laws, adds further complexity.

Back to Top

Key Insights


Wading through it all might cause some software developers to long for the simplicity of building cross-browser websites. For example, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act require universities to provide accessible information technology, though the technical standards defining compliance are in Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act; for more on these laws, as well as other laws, regulations, specifications, and recommendations, see the sidebar "For More Information." State laws relating to accessible information technology add further complication. Inconsistencies between state and federal law, as well as a general lack of clear guidelines defining compliance with various laws, add more, particularly for software developers who generally lack formal training in the law concerning disability rights.


No entries found

Log in to Read the Full Article

Sign In

Sign in using your ACM Web Account username and password to access premium content if you are an ACM member, Communications subscriber or Digital Library subscriber.

Need Access?

Please select one of the options below for access to premium content and features.

Create a Web Account

If you are already an ACM member, Communications subscriber, or Digital Library subscriber, please set up a web account to access premium content on this site.

Join the ACM

Become a member to take full advantage of ACM's outstanding computing information resources, networking opportunities, and other benefits.

Subscribe to Communications of the ACM Magazine

Get full access to 50+ years of CACM content and receive the print version of the magazine monthly.

Purchase the Article

Non-members can purchase this article or a copy of the magazine in which it appears.
Sign In for Full Access
» Forgot Password? » Create an ACM Web Account