The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has filed a consent decree to resolve allegations by a blind student regarding the accessibility of a university's website and other technologies. The DOJ requires the university to pay $25,000 to affected students and undertake broad remedial actions to improve the accessibility of the university's learning management systems, public-facing websites and intranet, web-based content, and campus technologies. Specific requirements of the settlement include:

  • Development and implementation of an accessibility plan and policy;

  • Designation of an accessibility coordinator;

  • Development of procedures and a portal for obtaining accessible content;

  • Prompt procedures for ensuring accessible course materials; and

  • Accessible technology procurement processes.

This consent decree represents the second time in the last two weeks that the DOJ has published settlements that address the accessibility of electronic and information technology at educational institutions. Though its rulemaking process remains slow, the DOJ continues to take aggressive action to require conformance to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0. The DOJ's settlements increasingly require campus-wide accessibility and require training of faculty, administrators, and incoming students on accessibility procedures.

The DOJ's actions also come at a time when educational institutions and other entities covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) have received demand letters from plaintiffs' firms regarding website accessibility. Educational institutions are advised to develop a comprehensive approach to the accessibility of websites, learning management systems, and other technologies on campus.

Attorneys in Ballard Spahr's Higher Education Practice Group regularly advise clients on accessibility matters under the Americans with Disabilities Act and have experience drafting ADA and digital accessibility policies and procedures; guiding clients through privileged assessments and audits of websites; defending against governmental investigations of accessibility, including digital accessibility matters; and providing training on digital accessibility.

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This alert is a periodic publication of Ballard Spahr LLP and is intended to notify recipients of new developments in the law. It should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion on any specific facts or circumstances. The contents are intended for general informational purposes only, and you are urged to consult your own attorney concerning your situation and specific legal questions you have.

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