TUESDAY: Gateway to Emerging Technology
This week, in honor of the 23rd anniversary of the ADA, we recognize and celebrate the different gateways that the ADA is opening up to people with disabilities. Today we highlight the ADA as a gateway to emerging technology.
The explosion of new technology has dramatically changed the way America communicates, learns and does business. For many people with disabilities the benefits of this technology revolution remain beyond their reach. Many businesses websites and government entities are inaccessible to people with vision or hearing disabilities. Because websites are a primary means of accessing all kinds of goods, entertainment and government services, this lack of access excludes people with disabilities from modern society. Similarly, devices like electronic book (e-book) readers, whether used as textbooks in a classroom or to take out books from a local library, can be completely unusable by someone who is blind because accessible features they need, such as text-to-speech functions or menus and controls accessible by audio or tactile means, are not provided.
Websites and digital technologies can be made accessible, much like adding ramps to building entrances, but few entities are including available accessibility features in their technology. The Civil Rights Division is working to ensure that people with disabilities are not left behind as new technology continues to emerge.
Increasing Technological Accessibility for Students with Disabilities at Louisiana Tech: Today, the Civil Rights Division announced a settlement agreement with Louisiana Tech University and the Board of Supervisors for the University of Louisiana System to address the use of inaccessible technology in the university setting. The settlement resolves claims that the university violated the ADA by using an online learning product that was allegedly inaccessible to a blind student. The student’s lack of access to the online course materials and homework lasted nearly a month into the university quarter, at which point the student was so far behind in his coursework that he had to withdraw from the course. The settlement also resolves allegations that in a later class, the same student was not provided accessible course materials for in-class discussion or exam preparation on time.
Under the settlement agreement, the university will adopt a number of accessibility policies, including the requirement to use only learning technology, web pages and course content that are accessible in accordance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Level AA standard. The university will also make existing web pages and materials created since 2010 accessible. The agreement also requires the university and the Board to pay a total of $23,543 in damages to the student.
Making Accessible e-book Readers Available to Patrons with Disabilities at the Sacramento Public Library: In August 2012, the Civil Rights Division and the National Federation of the Blind entered into a settlement agreement with the Sacramento Public Library to resolve a complaint that the library’s use of certain e-readers in its e-reader lending program discriminated against people who are blind or have other vision disabilities because the e-readers did not have accessible features such as text-to-speech functions or the ability to access menus through audio or tactile means. Under the terms of the settlement, the library will no longer purchase inaccessible e-book readers for patron use. The library also agreed to buy several additional accessible e-readers and to train its staff about the ADA. As a result of this settlement, the library’s e-book lending program is accessible to patrons who are blind or have other vision disabilities.
For more information on the Americans with Disabilities Act, visit ADA.gov, or call the toll-free ADA Information Lineat (800) 514-0301 (voice) or (800) 514-0383 (TTY). For more information on the ADA Anniversary Week Celebration, visit www.ada.gov/ada-23-anni.htm.