There are different requests made by the OCR when seeking to enforce civil rights laws. The following provides an overview of the steps required to conform to stipulations outlined in demand letters sent from the OCR or comply with settlement agreements established with the OCR.
- Procure Accessibility Specialist
- Provide Accessibility Support Resources for End-Users
- Establish an Audit Priority Plan
- Audit Existing Content and Functionality
- Train Resources and Establish Policies and Procedures for New Content and Functionality
- Formalize a Corrective Action Plan
- Remediate Issues and Adhere to Corrective Action Plan Schedule
For this reason, AudioEye recommends a proactive approach to remediate existing sites to a) do the right thing by granting equal access to the widest audience possible, b) comply with ADA-related digital accessibility requirements, resulting in c) risk mitigation.
The OCR plays a key role in resolving complaints of discrimination. The OCR enforces several Federal civil rights laws including Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability and Title II of the ADA which applies to State and local governments which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in all services, programs, and activities provided to the public.
Failure to provide equal access to digital content for people with disabilities, is no different than failing to provide the physical accommodations – such as wheelchair ramps, elevator buttons in braille or flashing light cues – to individuals impaired by mobility, vision or auditory disabilities.
This means that an individual, group or organization can file an OCR complaint, whether or not they are a direct victim of the alleged discrimination.
Basically, if someone sees that a school doesn’t have a wheelchair ramp, they can file an ORC complaint because a student in a wheelchair is being denied equal access to the school.
As it relates to digital accessibility, for example: if the school’s websites, public or internal facing, are not digitally accessible, a person with or without a disability, can file an OCR complaint, citing that people with disabilities, because they are being denied equal access to information as a result of the failure of the school or school district, to provide equal access to information, are being discriminated against on the basis of their disability.
This means schools and school districts have exposure beyond the 15% – 20% of the population that has a disability; anyone can file a complaint against a school for their failure to provide equal access.
A complaint can be filed by anyone who believes that an education institution or program described above, that receives Federal financial assistance has discriminated against someone on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability or age. The person or organization filing the complaint does not need to be a victim of the alleged discrimination but may complain on behalf of another person or group.
The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is a sub-agency of the U.S. Department of Education that focuses on protecting the civil rights of all Americans. The mission of the OCR is to ensure equal access to education and to promote educational excellence throughout the nation, through vigorous enforcement of civil rights.
The OCR serves student populations facing discrimination and the advocates and institutions promoting systemic solutions to civil rights problems.
Learn more about the OCR
All public entities must comply with Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Each state and local government’s services, activities, and programs that are provided to the public must be accessible. Even if a state and local program is not funded by or receives financial assistance from the federal government, it must still comply with ADA under Title II.
Section 504 requires that school districts provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to qualified students in their jurisdictions who have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, regardless of the nature or severity of the disability. Under Section 504, FAPE means providing regular or special education and related aids and services designed to meet the student’s individual educational needs as adequately as the needs of nondisabled students are met.
Learn more about Section 504 at: http://www.parentcenterhub.org/section504/
Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act is a regulation which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities by public entities – state or local government and any of their departments, agencies, or other instrumentalities. Title II, requires comparable access for people with disabilities, by all state and local government programs, regardless of whether the programs get federal financial assistance or not.
The Federal Government is not considered a public entity and is covered under Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
Learn more about ADA Title II
Many states require compliance with Section 508 and have passed laws identical or similar to Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act or require compliance with Section 508. Some of these laws are based on the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) Web Content Guidelines and Standards (WCAG) version 2.0 for web content accessibility.
To confirm the accessibility requirements of your State, visit the State’s .gov site and search “Accessibility Statement,” and you will find the exact requirements.
Given that more than 15% of the population has a disability that can impede equal access to digital content, there is no reason why every website should not be fully accessible. It is important to keep in mind that all public entities are required to provide equal access under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the failure to provide an accessible website can result in legal action