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Two Ohio universities agree to improve website accessibility for individuals with disabilities

December 19th, 2014  |  Deborah Hammonds

This month, the Department of Education and two universities in Ohio reached agreements regarding access to the universities’ websites for individuals with disabilities. According to the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR), the University of Cincinnati and Youngstown State University have agreed to ensure their websites comply with federal civil rights laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of disability.

University of Cincinnati. As part of its proactive investigation, OCR reviewed how accessible the university’s websites were to persons with disabilities, particularly those with sensory impairments who might use assistive technology to access the sites. The university is a public institution with more than 42,000 students.

OCR determined that the university is not in compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (laws enforced by the Department of Education) because portions of the university’s websites were not readily accessible to persons with disabilities. The office also found that the university is not in compliance with regulatory requirements concerning publication of a required nondiscrimination notice in relevant publications and the designation of, and contact information for, coordinator(s) designated to ensure compliance with these laws.

In response to these determinations, and prior to OCR’s review of other areas of the university’s websites, the university entered into an agreement to ensure that content on its sites is accessible to individuals with disabilities and that it is providing an equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities to participate in and benefit from its online learning environment. A copy of the resolution letter and the agreement can be found on the Department of Education’s website.  

Youngstown State University. The agreement with Youngstown State University ends an OCR investigation which examined the accessibility of the university’s websites to persons with disabilities, particularly those with sensory impairments who may require the use of assistive technology to access the sites. Located in northeast Ohio, Youngstown State University is a 13,000-student public institution.

OCR concluded that the university was not in compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Title II of the ADA. In the first instance, Youngstown State’s websites were not readily accessible to persons with disabilities. And in the second, OCR found that the university was not fully in compliance with the regulatory requirements regarding the publication of a notice of nondiscrimination in relevant documents.

The university has agreed to ensure that content on its websites is accessible to individuals with disabilities and that it is providing an equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities to participate in and benefit from its online learning environment. A copy of the resolution letter and the agreement can be found on the Department of Education’s website.

The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights is responsible for enforcing federal civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination by educational institutions on the bases of disability, race, color, national origin, sex, and age, as well as the Boy Scouts of America Equal Access Act of 2001. More information on these settlements and how OCR handles civil rights cases, is available on the website, www.ed.gov.

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