Relevant Policies/Laws

The following are some of the relevant policies and laws that apply to accessibility as it relates to online content. Users of this module are encouraged to review and stay up-to-date on the material presented in the links and obtain legal advice when needed. The Americans with Disabilities Act is intended to provide a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities and provide broad coverage. Those working in higher education only need to look at recent lawsuits and settlements regarding online accessibility at major universities to understand the ramifications of ignoring accessibility guidelines.

  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Title II: This federal law protects qualified individuals with disabilities from discrimination on the basis of disability in services, programs, and activities provided by state and local government entities.
  • Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Section 504: Section 504 states that "no qualified individual with a disability in the United States shall be excluded from, denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under" any program or activity that receives federal financial assistance.
  • Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Section 508: Federal agencies are responsible for ensuring their information and services are accessible to persons with disabilities. The revised 508 Standards include not just IT tools and systems, but electronic content such as documents, web pages, presentations, social media content, blogs, and email.
  • 1 TAC 206.70: The Texas Administrative code outlines legal accessibility requirements for the state of Texas.
  • Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, Level AA: The WCAG guidelines cover various principles on the different types of accessibility requirements such as video captioning and distinguishable information.
  • The University of Texas System (UTS) 150: This University of Texas System policy addresses accessibility with regards to resources developed by the System and its institutions. 
  • Texas Government Code, Chapter 2054, Subchapter M: Texas laws governing electronic information resources or EIR accessibility requirements for state agencies. 


Copyright or Fair Use

For multimedia obtained online or elsewhere, check for copyright information and obtain permission from the copyright holder to caption and/or distribute. It can be as simple as asking, “We’d like to caption this for a class. Is that okay?”

Sometimes it’s not so easy, and complications can arise:

  • The copyright holder declines your request because the video is already available in an accessible form and they prefer you to use their existing captions.
  • The copyright holder declines your request, even though they do not supply captions.
  • You can’t locate the copyright holder.
  • There are multiple copyright holders, so contacting each one would be impractical.

Many schools and libraries enjoy exemptions from strict interpretation of copyright law, and captioning may or may not be permitted as a result. Consulting with The University of Texas System General Counsel may be advantageous, depending on the circumstances, and, to understand this topic better, we encourage review of the UT System’s Copyright Crash Course, linked below.

Fair use is a legal doctrine that promotes freedom of expression by permitting the unlicensed use of copyright-protected works in certain circumstances. Section 107 of the Copyright Act provides the statutory framework for determining whether something is a fair use and identifies certain types of uses—such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research—as examples of activities that may qualify as fair use.

Section 107 calls for consideration of the following four factors in evaluating a question of fair use:

  • Purpose and character of the use, including whether the use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes
  • Nature of the copyrighted work
  • Amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
  • Effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work

“Copyright Crash Course” (UT System)
“More Information on Fair Use” (
"Copyright Law vs. Accessibility Law: Is It Fair Use to Caption Videos You Don’t Own?" (3Play Media)