Retrofitting accessibility: The legal inequality of after-the-fact online access for persons with disabilities in the United States

Brian Wentz, Paul T Jaeger, Jonathan Lazar


Despite the significant advantages that access to information and communication technology has made to many of our lives, the related benefits, opportunities and even equalizing effect of this technology are often not accessible or only partially accessible to a growing portion of the global population. Current disability rights laws which are supposed to exist for the protection and well–being of individuals with disabilities are often too close to the heart of the problem, as they can actually promote a separate but unequal online environment. If current U.S. laws were revised to encourage born–accessible technology and there was consistent enforcement of such laws, the online experience of millions of individuals with disabilities could be drastically improved. This article examines the aspects of the current laws that perpetuate a separate but unequal online environment, discussing past and current examples of such inequity. It also contrasts the structure of current U.S. disability rights laws with other civil rights legislation and offers a set of policy recommendations that could have a positive impact on accessibility.


Accessibility; disability; law; information policy

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