OCR Addresses Technological Barriers to Accessibility for Students with Disabilities

Aug 6, 2020 | Assistive Technology, Covid-19, Federal Standards

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) released its annual report for FY 2019. OCR, which is part of the US Department of Education, enforces several civil rights laws that apply to schools, including Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (this is where “504 plans” come from) and Title II of the ADA.

The establishment of the National Web Accessibility Team (page 17), which was created to resolve tech accessibility problems, is particularly noteworthy. This initiative started pre-COVID but what could be more timely or needed these days?

OCR offers in-depth technical assistance to help schools eliminate technological barriers to access for individuals with disabilities.

Technological barriers could include issues with keyboard access for users who can’t use a mouse, adequate color contrast for users with low vision, captioning and more.

The other takeaway is that schools could face legal issues under Section 504 or Title II if their online portals and learning management systems are not accessible to students with disabilities.

Per OCR, the standard is: where technological barriers are present, do the barriers impede individuals with disabilities from having an equal opportunity to enjoy recipients’ digital programs, services, or activities? Compliance could still be achieved by providing the same information or functionality in an accessible way, or equally effective alternate access is provided.