How can Office for Civil Rights resolutions help guide campuses in making information technology accessible?

In order for information technology (IT) to be accessible to and usable by people with disabilities, it must afford these individuals the opportunity to acquire the same information, engage in interactions, and obtain services as people without disabilities. The U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR), Department of Justice (DoJ), and courts of law have resolved civil rights complaints with respect to IT access for individuals with disabilities at more than a dozen postsecondary institutions in the United States.

Resolutions to OCR and DoJ complaints regarding inaccessible IT suggest that institutions of higher education consider:

  • developing corrective action strategies, e.g., to systematically review and update websites and PDF files to be more accessible
  • developing and disseminating an accessible IT policy
  • creating IT accessibility standards
  • providing training and education
  • developing procurement policies and procedures
  • developing and publicizing grievance procedures
  • addressing accessibility within already developed, procured, and used IT, including websites, learning management systems (LMSs), classroom technologies, and purchased software

Beyond that, ideally an institution of higher education might have:

  • a campus-level task force with annual reports
  • a IT accessibility guidance website
  • standard accessible web page templates
  • IT accessibility consulting/testing services
  • accessibility included on IT development and support teams
  • collaboration between vendors and staff for creating and purchasing accessible software and technology
  • IT accessibility courses offered
  • accessibility included in general IT training
  • accessibility included in IT job postings
  • an IT accessibility leader in each campus unit
  • captions promoted as a best practice
  • grant writers encouraged to include accessible technology in grant outcomes
  • accessibility-awareness activities and products
  • IT accessibility capacity-building institutes
  • grants secured to supplement and expand the reach of IT accessibility efforts
  • leadership related to IT accessibility in professional organizations and publications
  • students with disabilities as accessibility testers

Find more information consult legal cases by issue on the University of Washington’s website. Consult the Information Technology resource section of the DO-IT website for additional information regarding the implementation of universal design principles to make IT accessible to everyone.