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In 2016, the number of lawsuits for digital accessibility increased dramatically. With the court cases and settlements of previous years, the message was loud and clear: the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applied to digital accessibility and the Department of Justice (DOJ) was going to enforce digital accessibility.

Educational institutions are often tasked with the mission of serving all students, and so it is important for them to make sure their materials are accessible. Many educational institutions, particularly universities, faced lawsuits in 2016 regarding the accessibility of their course materials.

The DOJ Gets Involved

In 2016, the DOJ investigated two universities and found that their electronic resources were not fully accessible. At the University of California at Berkeley, the investigation arose when a student who is deaf and a professor at another university were unable to use Berkeley’s free online content, finding videos without captioning or with incorrect captioning. The DOJ also investigated Miami University of Ohio on behalf of a student who is blind who found many online course materials were inaccessible by screen reader. 

Harvard and MIT

In 2015, the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) brought suit against Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for not providing closed captioning on their online videos. The DOJ filed a Statement of Interest in both cases, stating that the universities’ online resources were required to be accessible under ADA Title III. In February 2016, a magistrate rejected Harvard and MIT’s claims that the ADA Accessibility Guidelines do not apply to non-physical structures.

Want to Learn More?

Download our free whitepaper: 2016 Legal Landscape Update: Education

Content provided by Level Access is intended for general information and education. The materials and facts presented do not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon in the face of pending litigation. If you have specific legal questions, please contact a lawyer.