June 6, 2001
The Honorable Joseph R. Pitts
United States Senator
Lancaster County Courthouse
50 North Duke Street
Lancaster, Pennsylvania 17602
Dear Senator Pitts:
This letter responds to your correspondence on behalf of your constituent, xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, whom you indicated had heard there was a rule or regulation that provides free Internet service to people with disabilities. Your correspondence particularly questioned whether there is any such regulation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990. Please excuse our delay in responding.
The ADA prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in employment, state and local government services, public accommodations, transportation, and telecommunications. Within its remedies, it is possible that an employee or program participant might be provided with modified computer equipment to permit access to the Internet if accessing the Internet is an essential function of an employee's job, or if accessing the Internet is required to benefit from a covered program. The ADA, however, has no specific provisions to assure that individuals with disabilities will be provided with free access to computers or the Internet.
I believe, however, that your constituent might be referring to the New Freedom Initiative that was announced by President Bush on February 1, 2001. The New Freedom Initiative is a set of proposals sent to Congress that focuses on increasing access to assistive and universally designed technologies, expanding educational opportunities, promoting home ownership, integrating Americans with disabilities into the workforce, expanding transportation options, and promoting full access to community life. Title I of the Initiative proposes a significant increase in federal funding for guaranteed low-interest loans to purchase assistive technology. The prohibitive cost of computers that are configured with assistive technology was specifically cited as an example of why such loans are necessary. I have enclosed a copy of the New Freedom Initiative and the White House press release for your consideration.
I hope this information assists you in responding to your constituent. Please do not hesitate to contact the Department if we can be of assistance in other matters.
William R. Yeomans
Acting Assistant Attorney General
Civil Rights Division