It is illegal for public entities to discriminate against individuals with disabilities. No one disputes this premise. But did you know that if your website does not meet certain standards of accessibility you could be the subject of a complaint and investigation by OCR?
In 2010, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights issued a “Dear Colleague” letter to colleges and universities letting them know their websites and on-line portals need to be accessible to all students. In May of 2011 that was extended to elementary and secondary institutions as well. Since then OCR has been monitoring website accessibility through its power to enforce Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title II of the ADA.
While there are no regulations as of yet dictating standards, there are generally accepted standards such as those promulgated by the non-profit organization WebAIM based out of Utah State University, that publishes tools and checklists web developers and those responsible for maintaining district websites can use to determine whether your website is in compliance with these standards.
Recently, one of our clients received a notice from OCR that it has commenced an investigation into its website’s accessibility. This is the first such case filed against a Connecticut school district of which we are aware. Before your district is the subject of a complaint, you may wish to consult with your website designer to make certain you are in compliance with the applicable standards so that you can avoid a lengthy and expensive OCR investigation. Feel free also to contact Floyd Dugas (203-882-4110) or Eric Barba (203-882-4178) should you have any questions about these requirements.