Schools prompted to fix web access for disabled

Schools prompted to fix web access for disabled

(District of Columbia) The U.S. Department of Education announced on Wednesday the settlement of various claims made against 11 education organizations for failing to provide adequate access to people with disabilities to their websites.

Although school administrators are typically sensitive to the educational needs of students with disabilities, concerns that out-facing communication tools also comply with federal law are often overlooked.

Among the problems investigators found were web content that could only be accessed by people using a mouse, which is an issue for people who are blind or have significant visual limitations as well as people who have disabilities that affect fine motor skills.

Use of some color combinations also made some content hard or even impossible for some with visual disabilities. Also found were embedded videos that were not captioned or accurately captioned, thus unusable to people who are deaf.

Even before the department’s Office for Civil Rights completed its review, officials from all 11 entities agreed to voluntarily fix the websites.

“As schools, school districts, states, and territories turn to the internet as a way to provide relevant and up-to-date information to their audiences in a cost-effective manner, they must make sure they are not inadvertently excluding people with disabilities from their online programs, services, and activities,” Catherine E. Lhamon, the department’s assistant secretary for civil rights, said in a statement. “I applaud each of these signatories who have committed to ensuring that their websites are accessible to people with disabilities.”

Recipients of federal funds are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of disability under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

The settlements involved:

Juneau School District, Alaska
Guam Department of Education
Montana School for the Deaf & Blind
Santa Fe Public Schools, New Mexico
Washoe County School District, Nevada
The Davidson Academy of Nevada
Nevada Department of Education
Oregon Department of Education
Granite School District, Utah
Bellingham Public Schools, Washington
Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction

The Obama administration has made opening the benefits of the internet to all citizens a priority. In 2010, the U.S. Department of Justice issued new accessibility rules governing all sites based in this country, although the deadline for making many of the required changes has been extended to 2018.