In 1998, Congress amended the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to reflect the newly emerging focus on technology. The amended act added provisions requiring federal agencies' electronic and information technology be accessible to persons with disabilities, including employees and members of the public. The law applies to all federal agencies as they develop, procure, maintain, and/or use electronic and information technology. In addition, Section 508 of the act also assures that people with disabilities in the general public have equal access to federal government information. While state governments are not directly subject to Section 508, Section 504 of the Act prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities in any federally funded programs or activities. It requires that programs receiving federal funds must be accessible to individuals with disabilities. And while Section 504 does not specifically address electronic and information technology accessibility issues, it may be inferred that federally funded state programs have some responsibility to meet the requirements of Section 508.
The U.S. Department of Justice issued an opinion in September 1996 stating that the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) Titles II and III require state and local governments and the business sector to provide effective communication whenever they communicate through the Internet. This effective communication rule applies to covered entities using the Internet for communications regarding their programs, goods, or services, since they must be prepared to offer those communications via an accessible medium.
Usability of information technology is a serious issue for Missouri citizens with disabilities. Web pages that are not designed to be accessible bar individuals with disabilities from participating in and reaping the benefits of e-government and e-commerce.
Accessible Web design provides benefits beyond the community of disabled persons. The most significant benefit is that accessible Web design enables users of simple technology to access information requiring more sophisticated technology. Thus, people with slow modems and low bandwidth can access the electronic content of an accessible Web site even if they do not have state-of-the-art computer equipment. Additionally, people with personal digital assistants and cell phones can access the content of Web sites incorporating accessible Web design features.
Missouri state agencies subject to this policy shall take reasonable steps to design and develop Web sites and Web services so that they are accessible to people with disabilities as well as those without disabilities.
Agency Web page developers, designers, programmers, and content providers shall become familiar with the guidelines for achieving universal Web accessibility and shall apply these principles in designing and creating any official state of Missouri Web sites.
Agencies shall take reasonable steps to meet the Web accessibility standards issued by the Access Board, Part 1194 to Chapter XI of Title 36 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Subpart B Section 22, under Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. Many items in the Section 508 standards are similar to the Priority 1 level checkpoints of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 (WCAG) developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), but there are some variances.
Any revisions to the Section 508 Web access standards shall be incorporated as a requirement of this policy unless agencies are otherwise notified.
Agencies are strongly encouraged to go beyond the Section 508 accessibility standards and incorporate the additional Web design techniques contained in the W3C's Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.
All state agencies subject to the policy shall take reasonable steps to incorporate Web accessible design techniques when developing new Web pages, sites, and services. As existing Web pages, sites, and services are revised and updated, agencies shall take reasonable steps to ensure the accessibility of those pages, sites, and services.