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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Justice Department Moves to Intervene in Disability Discrimination Lawsuit Alleging that Miami University Uses Inaccessible Educational Technologies and Course Materials

The Justice Department announced today that it has moved to intervene in Aleeha Dudley v. Miami University, et al., 14-cv-038 (S.D. Ohio), a private lawsuit alleging disability discrimination by Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.  In the United States’ motion to intervene and complaint, the United States alleges that Miami University has violated Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by requiring current and former students with disabilities to use inaccessible websites and learning management system software, and by providing these students with inaccessible course materials.  The motion was filed in the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Ohio.

As alleged in today’s filings, Miami University uses technologies that are inaccessible to current and former students who have vision, hearing or learning disabilities.  Miami University has failed to ensure that individuals with disabilities can interact with its websites and learning management systems and access course assignments, textbooks and graphical materials on an equal basis with students without disabilities.  Miami’s failures have deprived persons with disabilities of a full and equal opportunity to benefit from Miami University’s educational opportunities.

Many students with disabilities, including those who have vision, hearing or learning disabilities, require assistive technologies to use computers and interact with electronic content.  Examples of assistive technologies include screen reader software, refreshable Braille displays, audio description, captioning and keyboard navigation.  Screen reader software audibly reads aloud information that is otherwise presented visually on a computer screen; refreshable Braille displays convert digital text into Braille; captioning translates video narration and sound into text; and keyboard navigation allows individuals with visual or manual dexterity disabilities to access computer content using a keyboard rather than a mouse.

The complaint seeks a judgment from the court requiring Miami University to provide accessible materials to ensure that individuals with disabilities can equally participate in and benefit from Miami University’s educational opportunities, and to compensate aggrieved individuals.

“Education is said to be the great equalizer of American society, and educational technologies hold great promise to make this a reality,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta of the Civil Rights Division.  “However, students with disabilities continue to encounter an impenetrable glass ceiling of opportunity when schools fail to comply with the ADA.”   

Title II of the ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability by state and local government entities, including colleges and universities.  Title III of the ADA likewise prohibits disability discrimination by private educational institutions.

Those interested in finding out more about the ADA may call the Justice Department’s toll-free ADA information line at 800-514-0301 (TDD 800-514-0383) or visit www.ada.gov.

Updated August 4, 2015