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Higher Ed Accessibility Lawsuits

Disability rights organizations and students with disabilities have filed lawsuits against numerous universities and colleges in the recent past.
Collage of Universities that have faced litigation

During the past five years inaccessible Information Technology (IT) has increasingly impacted higher education. Louisiana Tech, South Carolina Technical College System, University of Montana, Florida State University, Northwestern University, New York University, Penn State University, Law School Admissions Council, Arizona State, Princeton, Reed, Pace, Darden School of Business, and Case Western have all faced litigation for inaccessible Web content and technologies.

Typical Scenario

A typical scenario involves a university relying on a Web-based content management system or a collaboration technology (such as Google Docs) or providing course material. A disability rights organization or student then finds it inaccessible and segregating. Subsequently they file suit.

In this common case as the investigation progresses, it grows into a campus-wide comprehensive review of accessibility. Ultimately, the university agrees to terms much broader than the initial complaint and commits to a campus-wide review of all technologies that may impact people with disabilities, including fixing all of its Web material (to comply with WCAG 2.0 level AA). The university must also agree to a strong policy statement for accessibility as well as training for employees. Lastly, the institution must agree to purchase only accessible IT to ensure that future technology is accessible.

What is "Accessible"?

"Accessible" means a person with a disability is afforded the opportunity to acquire the same information, engage in the same interactions, and enjoy the same services as a person without a disability in an equally effective and equally integrated manner, with substantially equivalent ease of use. The person with a disability must be able to obtain the information as fully, equally and independently as a person without a disability. Although this might not result in identical ease of use compared to that of persons without disabilities, it still must ensure equal opportunity to the educational benefits and opportunities afforded by the technology and equal treatment in the use of such technology.

Source: Resolution Agreement South Carolina Technical College System OCR Compliance Review No. 11-11-600 - Department of Justice and the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights
Higher Education Litigation Timeline
Year Defendant Complaint References
2013 Louisiana Tech Inaccessibility of course materials
2013 South Carolina Technical College System Inaccessibility of Web sites
2012 University of Montana Inaccessibility of Web content and services (class assignments, live chat and discussion board, videos without captions, and an inaccessible registration system.)
2012 Florida State University Inaccessibility of E-Learning
2011 Northwestern University Inaccessibility of Google Apps.
(While Google is working to make its platform more accessible, it has yet to complete this task. For barriers consult Google Apps.)
2011 New York University Inaccessibility of Google Apps
(While Google is working to make its platform more accessible, it has yet to complete this task. For barriers consult Google Apps.)
2010 Penn State University Inaccessibility of Web site and course materials
2009 Law School Admissions Council Inaccessibility of Web content and LSAT preparation materials.
(Settlement included an agreement to make Web content and services conform to WCAG 2.0 AA within 5 months.)
2009 Arizona State, Princeton, Reed, Pace, Darden School of Business and Case Western Inaccessibility of Kindle textbook technology

Related References