There’s no need to panic once you receive a letter from The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) within the Department of Education (DOE). The OCR follows a specific process for handling complaints, and knowing what to expect will make things easier for everyone.
After receiving a complaint, the OCR will open an investigation if the complaint seems valid. If you know that an investigation has been opened, it is the perfect time to engage in Early Complaint Resolution (ECR). In ECR, the educational institution, without admitting fault, agrees to fix any potential violations on its website.
However, if you decide not to go that route, then, once the OCR determines that a violation has been made, the OCR will attempt to negotiate with the educational institution to ensure that the school becomes compliant. The important thing to note for educational institutions is that this is a negotiation. Upon receiving a letter from the OCR, this is the time to talk to an accessibility expert and determine a plan to make the institution’s websites accessible. Although educational institutions must form a plan within 30 days of receiving a letter, they may have up to a year to make sure their website is compliant.
There are some major areas where the OCR is usually willing to negotiate. Most notably, the timeline for compliance is generally negotiable. Also, many educational institutions can negotiate the terms of bringing third-party solutions into compliance, since those are not under the direct control of the school.
If the OCR is unable to reach an agreement with the educational institution or the school refuses to negotiate, possible sanctions could include the withdrawal of federal aid or referral of the case to the DOJ. Needless to say, educational institutions do not want to be put in this position, so the best option is to cooperate and negotiate with the OCR.
Want to learn more?
Our Education Account Managers walk you through things that your school should know:
- Common complaints that persons with disabilities may have about your website
- Digital accessibility laws that pertain to educational institutions
- What you should do when you get a complaint letter