National Federation of the Blind Applauds U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for New Accessibility Rule

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National Federation of the Blind Applauds U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for New Accessibility Rule

Baltimore, Maryland (May 13, 2024): The National Federation of the Blind, the transformative advocacy organization of blind Americans, applauds the United States Department of Health and Human Services for finalizing its accessibility rule for programs or activities receiving federal financial assistance under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. This new rule, published in the Federal Register on Thursday, May 9, 2024, will ensure that the blind and other Americans with disabilities have equal access to information, programs, and services provided by any Section 504 compliant program or activity.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in programs and activities that receive Federal financial assistance as well as in programs and activities conducted by any Federal agency. The release of this final rule, which will go into effect on July 8, 2024, follows a notice of proposed rulemaking published last November, regarding which the National Federation of the Blind praised certain aspects of the rule while also announcing serious concerns about others. 

Notably, the Federation appreciated that the proposed rule solidified the rights of parents with disabilities in programs such as child welfare and adoption agencies that receive federal assistance. The proposed rule also required that kiosks in facilities receiving federal funding be accessible. Both of these provisions have been maintained in the final rule. Additionally, the final rule eliminated three of the seven exceptions to web accessibility about which the Federation raised concerns.

“Blind Americans commend, congratulate, and thank the Department of Health and Human Services for finalizing this crucial rule," said Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind. "The dedicated staff at the Department of Health and Human Services clearly took some of our objections to the draft rule into account. The final rule addresses the worst of the problems with the original proposed rule, and it provides the improved kiosk accessibility and parental rights protections for which we have advocated for decades. While there are still exceptions with which we disagree, we expect that entities that receive federal financial assistance will find that incorporating accessibility as a regular practice is a much wiser course than relying on those exceptions. Robust and consistent accessibility breaks down artificial barriers and empowers blind Americans to benefit fully from community programs, rather than being relegated to the status of second-class citizens.”

CONTACT
Chris Danielsen
Director of Public Relations
National Federation of the Blind
410-659-9314, extension 2330