Higher Education ADA Web Accessibility Lawsuit Repository

Lawsuits, Complaints, and Settlement Agreements

Time and again, the United States Department of Justice has taken a stand on its position that websites fall under the definition of a place of accommodation as outlined in the Americans with Disabilities Act. Proof of this testament can be seen in long list of settlements and interventions by the DOJ pertaining to higher education institutions and website accessibility.

The United States Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights has been experiencing an up-tick in disability discrimination complaints on the basis of website accessibility. The Office for Civil Rights has been pursuing and reaching settlements with educational institutions to update their websites making them accessible to people with disabilities.

Courts have also taken the same stance that website accessibility can be categorized under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act and can be seen in the summaries below.

The complaints and lawsuits are based on allegations and not fact. By entering into a settlement agreement or structured negotiation, the educational institutions are not admitting guilt or concession to the allegations.

Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD)

  • Complaint filed by: National Federation of the Blind and two students who are blind
  • Year: March 3, 2107
  • Complaint: Violation of the ADA and Section 508

Summary: The National Federation of the Blind, The National Federation of the Blind of California, Roy Payan, and Portia Mason filed a complaint against the Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD) for discrimnation, violating the Americans with Disabilities Act, and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. The complaint describes that LACCD failed to provide accessible material for students who are blind. Two of those students, Roy Payan and Portia Mason, have incomplete coursework and in turn received grades that do not fully reflect their work and aptitude. Inaccessible material became a barrier for the students to complete requirements, violating ADA and Section 504.

Related Resources

National Federation of the Blind and Two Blind Students File Suit Against Los Angeles Community College District

University of Phoenix

  • Complaint filed with: Office for Civil Rights.
  • Year: 2015
  • Complaint: Online learning program not accessible with assistive technology

Summary: A University of Phoenix student filed a complaint of discrimination on behalf of themselves and people with disabilities claiming that when the university switched to a new online learning program that it was not accessible to people using assistive technology. In their settlement agreement, the University of Phoenix will assess their online learning program using the web accessibility standards set forth in WCAG 2.0.

Related Resource

University of Phoenix Resolution Agreement [PDF]

Miami University

  • Intervention by: U.S. Department of Justice
  • Year: 2015
  • Complaint: Violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act Title II

Summary: A former student who is blind filed a lawsuit against the Oxford, Ohio Miami University that she was denied equal opportunity to benefit from the educational institution. The United Sates Department of Justice (DOJ) intervened in a lawsuit as it pertained to disability discrimination. The university required students to use website and "learning management system software" that was inaccessible to students with disabilities, giving them inaccessible course materials. After an investigation, the DOJ found that Miami University did not have equal access to education to not only people who are blind but to people with a range of disabilities, violating the American with Disabilities Act.

Related Resources

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

Settlement reached with student

Atlantic Cape Community College

  • Filed by: National Federation of the Blind & Two Students who are Blind
  • Year: 2015
  • Complaint: Disability Discrimination

Summary: The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) and two Atlantic Cape Community College (ACCC) students who are blind allege that ACCC is discriminating based on disability and have violated the American with Disabilities Act (ADA). While denying the allegations ACCC has agreed to a Consent Decree. In the Consent Decree, ACCC agrees to make their online presence fully accessible to people with disabilities. To do so, they will hire a third-party consultant to evaluate the disability center and create new procedures and policies to be compliant with the ADA and conform with WCAG 2.0.

Related Resources

National Federation of the Blind and Two Blind Students Resolve Complaint Against Atlantic Cape Community College

United States District Court For the District of New Jersey Consent Decree [PDF]

edX Inc.

  • Settled with: The U.S. Department of Justice
  • Year: 2015
  • Complaint: Violation of the American with Disabilities Act

Summary: edX Inc. provides free online courses (massive open online courses (MOOCs)) from charter members, such as universities and institutions. The MOOCs were not fully accessible to people who are blind, have low-vision, who are deaf, or are hard of hearing, and people who have physical disabilities. edX and the U.S. Department of Justice entered into a four year agreement, where edX is to have fully accessible mobile applications, software, and online courses to people with disabilities. As another commitment, edX will also provide website accessibility guidance to the creators of the MOOCs, hire a coordinator and build a web accessibility policy, solicit feedback from people with disabilities who take the course, and supply web accessibility training to employees.

Related Resources

Massive Open Online Courses Landmark ADA Web Accessibility Settlement

Justice Department Reaches Settlement with edX Inc., Provider of Massive Open Online Courses, to Make its Website, Online Platform and Mobile Applications Accessible to Under the Americans with Disabilities Act

Settlement Agreement Between The United States of America and edX Inc. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act [PDF]

Youngstown State University

  • Complaint filed with: Office for Civil Rights
  • Year: 2014
  • Complaint: Disability discrimination based on website accessibility

Summary: The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) found that Ohio's Youngstown State University website was inaccessible and violated Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Youngstown State University has reached a resolution agreement to ensure that their website is accessible to people with disabilities and to use third-party consulting in identifying and fixing accessibility flaws.

Related Resources

U.S. Education Department Reaches Agreement with Youngstown State University to Ensure Equal Access to its Websites for Individuals with Disabilities

Youngstown State University Resolution Agreement [PDF]

University of Montana

  • Complaint filed with: Office for Civil Rights
  • Year: 2014
  • Complaint: Website Accessibility

Summary: The Alliance for Disability and Students at the University of Montana filed a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights because students with disabilities could not access their online coursework. After investigation, the OCR found that class material and assignments were inaccessible, images did not have alt text, and there was a problem accessing flash videos, as well as problems with video and chat functions. Through their agreement, the University of Montana will audit and submit a new policy to implement changes to make their website and learning materials accessible to people with disabilities.

Related Resources

National Federation of the Blind Applauds Groundbreaking Agreement on Equal Access in Higher Education

University of Montana Resolution Agreement [PDF]

University of Colorado, Boulder

  • Complaint filed with: Office for Civil Rights
  • Year: 2014
  • Complaint: Inaccessible website and web resources for students who are blind

Summary: An investigation was opened in response to students who are blind or have low vision that do not have equal access and are being denied equal access to participate and use university resources, violating the Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Related Resources

University of Colorado, Boulder Letter of Investigation

University of Cincinnati

  • Complaint filed with: Office for Civil Rights
  • Year: 2014
  • Complaint: Website Accessibility, Disability Discrimination

Summary: The University of Cincinnati entered an agreement with the Office for Civil Rights to comply with standards set forth in the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act to make their website fully accessible to people with disabilities. Through the investigation, it was found that, while the university had policies set in place to follow Section 508 and Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0), they were not being executed. Through the agreement, the University of Cincinnati committed to making changes to policies and procedures to make their online presence and learning environment accessible to everyone.

Related Resources

University of Cincinnati, U.S. Education Department Reach Agreement to Ensure Equal Access to UC's Websites for Individuals with Disabilities

University of Cincinnati Resolution Agreement [PDF]

University of Cincinnati Resolution Letter [PDF]

Florida State University

  • Settled with: Department of Justice
  • Year: 2014
  • Complaint: Violating the American with Disabilities Act

Summary: The Florida State University (FSU) Police Department had been violating the American with Disabilities Act by asking questions about disability during the online application process. In part of the agreement FSU Police Department will comply with ADA standards and ensure that its website, employment website, and mobile applications are accessible to people with disabilities.

Related Resources

Justice Department Reaches Settlement with Florida State University

Maricopa Community College District

  • Settled with: National Federation of the Blind
  • Year: 2014
  • Complaint: Disability Discrimination

Summary: A student who attended Maricopa Community College District (MCCD) and the National Federation of the Blind filed a lawsuit against MCCD alleging that web resources (website, course registration, and assignments), clickers, and campus ATM's were not accessible to students who were blind. In the agreement, MCCD will procure Electronic Information Technology (EIT) to be accessible to all students, including students who are blind.

Related Resources

Maricopa Community College District Settlement Agreement [PDF]

National Federation of the Blind and Blind Student File Suit Against Maricopa Community College District

National Federation of the Blind and Maricopa Community College District Resolve Litigation

Mt Hood Community College

  • Settled with: Office for Civil Rights
  • Year: 2014
  • Complaint: Disability discrimination on the basis of website accessibility

Summary: The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) investigated Mt. Hood Community College after receiving a complaint that a student who has a disability was unable to register for a class on the school's website, because it was inaccessible with their screen reader. Before OCR began their investigation, Mt. Hood Community College entered into a resolution agreement. In the agreement, to comply with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Mt. Hood Community College will notify and implement policies to make online content accessible to people with disabilities, train employees on website accessibility, and give the student who filed the complaint, a free on-line class.

Related Resources

Mt. Hood Community College Letter [PDF]

Mt. Hood Community College Resolution Agreement [PDF]

Louisiana Tech University

  • Settled with: The U.S. Department of Justice
  • Year: 2013
  • Complaint: Violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act

Summary: A student who was blind was unable to access online learning content and fell behind in coursework. Louisiana Tech University reached a settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice to follow standards set forth in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 to make online learning accessible to people with the disabilities. The university will also train employees in ADA requirements.

Related Resources

Justice Department Settles with Louisiana Tech University Over Inaccessible Course Materials

South Carolina Technical College System

  • Settled with: Office for Civil Rights
  • Year: 2013
  • Complaint: Violation of Section 504 and the Americans with Disabilities Act

Summary: Under the agreement terms, South Carolina Technical College System (SCTCS) will ensure that all of their web content will be accessible to students who are blind or who are visually impaired. They will make their website accessible by complying with the American with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

Related Resources

Civil Rights Agreement Reached with South Carolina Technical College System on Accessibility of Websites to People with Disabilities

South Carolina Technical College System Resolution Agreement [PDF]

Law School Admissions Council (LSAC)

  • Settlement with: National Federation of the Blind
  • Year: 2011
  • Complaint: Inaccessible website to law school applicants who are blind

Summary: Along with the National Federation of the Blind, the National Federation of the Blind of California, and three individuals who are blind, Deepa Goraya, Bruce Sexton, and Claire Stenley, filed a complaint that the Law School Admissions Council was in violation of California State disabilities act and Title II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The plaintiffs claimed that the LSAC website was inaccessible to people with disabilities because it contained barriers for screen readers to access content. The students were not able to apply for law schools and register to take the LSAT on the website. In the settlement, LSAC agreed to make its website accessible to people with visual impairments.

Related Resources

National Federation of the Blind (NFB), et al. v. Law School Admissions Council (LSAC)

NFB and LSAC Settlement Agreement [PDF]

Florida State University

  • Filed by: National Federation of the Blind & Two Students who are Blind
  • Year: 2011
  • Complaint: Inaccessible web applications to complete coursework

Summary: In conjunction with the National Federation of the Blind, two students who are blind sued FSU for disability discrimination for being unable to complete their coursework to graduate. They were unable to complete assignments and complete quizzes/tests due to inaccessible websites. In their agreement, FSU committed to re-examine their current software and hardware for accessibility.

Related Resources

Blind Students Sue Florida State University for Discrimination

Florida State University Resolves Litigation with Students

Pennsylvania State University

  • Settled with: National Federation of the Blind and the Office for Civil Rights
  • Year: 2011
  • Complaint: Disability Discrimination

Summary: Students who are blind were unable to access library website catalog because of improper coding. Their screen readers were unable to interpret web content. Teachers at Penn State who are blind were unable to access classrooms "smart" podium without assistance from a person who is sighted. There were also inaccessible problems with the bank Penn State partners with, as well as audio ATM's throughout the University. Through the settlement, Penn State will make website content accessible with the standards set forth in WCAG 2.0, Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Related Resources:

Settlement Between Penn State University and National Federation of the Blind

National Federation of the Blind and Penn State Resolve Accessibility Complaint

McNeese State University

  • Settled with: The U.S. Department of Justice
  • Year: 2010
  • Complaint: Violation of American with Disabilities Act

Summary: In the agreement, McNeese State University agrees to establish new policies and procedures to make all website content accessible to people with disabilities and follow the standards set forth in the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Related Resources

Justice Department and McNeese State University Reach Settlement to Ensure Compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act

Settlement Agreement Between The United States of America, McNeese State University and The Board of Supervisors of the University of Louisiana System

Kaely Wang

Read more posts by this author.

Subscribe to the AudioEye nClusion Newsletter

Get the latest industry news & insights delivered right to your inbox.

  or subscribe via RSS with Feedly!