[Athen] NFB V LACCD - Federal Court Rules in Favor of Blind Students

Bossley, Peter A. bossley.5 at osu.edu
Wed Aug 21 19:51:41 PDT 2019


You bring up an interesting point. Legally speaking, the legal obligation is on the college or university. Especially in cases where the institution is providing the content or software to students.

However, could a Title III case be made against a publisher who sells software and content directly to students? Or, could a college or university turn around and bring action against a publisher or software vendor who represents that their software is accessible? I think both of those avenues are potential options but I think they would both depend on a serious apatite for a big push back from the publishers and vendors in question. And still, at the end of the day, the expectation would be that the college or university would have to make it accessible regardless. The vendors would argue that they are not a place of public accommodation and that they are not under an obligation to make the product accessible. And I think it likely that their contracts have some disclaimer of any kind of accessibility warranty.

Taking off my institutional hat for a second, and speaking on behalf of, and from my personal opinion alone, I feel it will take the money drying up for them to change; right now, people are still buying their products regardless of the state of accessibility. Until folks in higher education are willing to simply say, we won’t spend our money, or spend our student’s money, on your products until they are truly accessible, and mean it, we will continue to have these issues.

From: athen-list <athen-list-bounces at mailman12.u.washington.edu> On Behalf Of Wink Harner
Sent: Wednesday, August 21, 2019 9:50 PM
To: athen-list at u.washington.edu
Subject: Re: [Athen] NFB V LACCD - Federal Court Rules in Favor of Blind Students

Will Pearson be held accountable for any of their myriad My whatever inaccessible Lab materials? Or is it a hit 'em where it hurts and they'll change when colleges stop purchasing inaccessible materials from Pearson?

I am curious to learn if this or any of these valuable and far reaching OCR cases will extend to the publishers who knowingly sell books, materials, which they claim is accessible when they clearly aren't.

Thank you for sharing this, Peter.

Wink Harner

On August 21, 2019, at 6:10 PM, "Bossley, Peter A." <bossley.5 at osu.edu> wrote:

Many of you have probably seen this floating around but I hadn’t seen it posted here yet.

From the NFB release: https://nfb.org/about-us/press-room/federal-court-rules-favor-blind-students

“The Federal District Court for the Central District of California Found that LACCD violated the students’ rights under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation

Act of 1973 by, among other things, failing to provide them with accessible documents and course materials, failing to provide equal access to library

resources, procuring and using inaccessible educational technology, and maintaining an inaccessible website. The court specifically criticized the use

of the Pearson MyMathLab product, finding that Los Angeles Community College failed “to provide [Roy] Payan with meaningful access to his course materials

in the math classes in which Payan enrolled, either through the MyMathLab software program or via equivalent accessible assignments from a math textbook

in a timely manner.””

From my perspective, although the order leaves intact the allowance for alternative means of access, it does significantly raise the bar for that alternative from “substantially equivalent” to “prior to or at the same time sighted students are provided access”. If this signals the future of NFB advocacy efforts around digital accessibility, it will make up front accessibility all the more critical in higher education; with the 24/7 anytime nature of online technology, were this enhanced standard for alternative access to spread, it seems near impossible to meet without full native accessibility up front.

From the judgement, a few of the most salient points:

“Within one year of the date of this Order, LACCD shall evaluate LACC's integrated library system website and all library databases available to students enrolled at LACC to determine whether the library resources are fully accessible to blind students. LACCD shall either (a) discontinue the use of any inaccessible library databases, inaccessible documents contained in library databases, or other inaccessible library resources available to students enrolled at LACC or (b) establish alternative means of providing access to the equivalent benefits of the inaccessible library resources to blind students in a timely manner, i.e., prior to or at the same time sighted students are provided access to those library resources, including outside of the classroom;

Within one year of the date of this Order, LACCD shall ensure that the LACCD website, the LACC website, and all other educational or instructional websites available to students enrolled at LACC, including all educational resources or embedded programs on those websites (such as PeopleSoft) made available to LACC students, are accessible to blind students in accordance with WCAG 2.1 Level AA standards;”

[The Ohio State University]
Peter Bossley
Deputy ADA Coordinator
ADA Coordinator's Office - Office of Institutional Equity
950 Lincoln Tower, 1800 Cannon Drive, Columbus, OH 43210
614-688-3028 Office
bossley.5 at osu.edu<mailto:bossley.5 at osu.edu> / ada.osu.edu<http://ada.osu.edu/>

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