Symbol of accessibility on websites. Silhouette of a person  with open arms inside a circle.

On June 29th, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced the reaching of settlements with 11 education organizations to ensure website accessibility for people with disabilities.

The settlements come as a result of complaints received between February 10th and March 14th of 2016 regarding the accessibility of the websites of the 11 organizations. These complaints alleged that the each organizations was “discriminating, on the basis of disability, because certain pages on its website are not accessible to persons with disabilities.”

The organizations involved are recipients of federal financial assistance and are also public entities and as such should be compliant with the 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability.

The OCR found that the websites of the 11 education entities “were missing text descriptions,” also called all tags, of important images. The descriptions allow people with visual limitations to have access to the content of the image. On several of the websites the color combination made it difficult for people with low vision to see; some content could only be accessed by using a computer mouse; and videos were not accurately captioned.

As part of the settlement, each organization has committed to:

  • Make its website content and functionality accessible to people with disabilities;
  • Post a notice to persons with disabilities about how to request access to online information or functionality that is inaccessible;
  • Provide website accessibility training to all appropriate personnel; and
  • Develop a corrective action plan to prioritize the removal of online barriers

The parties involved in this settlement are Juneau School District, Guam Department of Education, Montana School for the Deaf and Blind, Santa Fe Public Schools, Washoe County School District, The Davidson Academy of Nevada, Nevada Department of Education, Oregon Department of Education, Granite School District, Bellingham School District and the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.

As website accessibility becomes a more prominent topic, public and private entities will have to adjust their online policies and technology to respond to the needs of people with disabilities.

For more information see the U.S. Department of Education press release, which also provides links to the letters from the OCR to the organizations and to the text of the agreements.

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