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Preparing for the Americans with Disabilities Act

C o n t e n t s
Section 508
The Cost of Accommodation
Executive Summary
Guidelines for Accessible Web Sites

In 1990, Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act "to establish a clear and comprehensive prohibition of discrimination on the basis of disability." Over the past decade, courts have sought to interpret the legislation's requirements, often--though not always--clarifying what is or isn't a disability, and what does or doesn't constitute the sort of reasonable accommodation Congress had on its collective mind.

One thing not in doubt is which companies must comply with the act: If your organization employs 15 or more people, ADA applies to you. Although some states, notably California, have their own statutes, rules and regulations concerning employees with disabilities, ADA provides plenty of incentive for IT to work with employees who fall within the legal definition of "disabled."

Why focus on ADA now? For one thing, nearly 15 years of court decisions have provided enough case law to guide IT. Second, a preoccupation with homeland security, GLBA (the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act), HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) and SOX (the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002) has relegated ADA to the back burner for the past couple of years. That means most ADA compliance has been on a reactive basis--hardly a recipe for cost efficiency and technology standardization. Finally, forward-thinking companies are looking to beat the numbers: As the working population ages and baby boomers get ready to retire in droves, some experts predict profound implications for the U.S. work force (see "By the Numbers," below).

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