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Release: Feb. 8, 2000

Internet sites may be subject to disability law

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Peter Blanck, University of Iowa College of Law professor, will testify this week before a congressional subcommittee that private Internet sites that offer goods and services intended for the public may be subject to Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Persons with vision, hearing or other disabilities often do not receive the benefits that the medium provides, says Blanck, a disability law specialist and director of the Disability Center at the UI College of Law. Blanck will testify before the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on the Constitution, Wednesday, Feb. 9. The subcommittee hearings come in the wake of a lawsuit by a group of blind individuals against America Online, urging the Internet portal make its services more accessible to persons with visual impairments.

Blanck states in his testimony that public accommodations must provide people with disabilities opportunities to enjoy their goods and services that are equal compared to the opportunities provided to others without disabilities.

"A major goal of the ADA is to remove architectural and communication barriers encountered by people with disabilities. Congress was careful in drafting the ADA to balance the needs of people with disabilities and the legitimate concerns of businesses," says Leonard Sandler, UI law professor and co-director of the Center.

As e-commerce markets and initiatives for goods and services expand, inventors, manufacturers, retailers, and employers are responding to meet the needs of consumers with disabilities, those who may become disabled in the future, and the elderly, Blanck says.