Ohio University Settles Accessibility Suit with Blind Student
by Andy Jones
October 28, 2016
The Miami University of Ohio announced an agreement October 17 with disability advocates and the Department of Justice in a lawsuit alleging that it failed to reasonably accommodate a blind student in its educational curriculum.
“We hope that every successful accessibility case will make it easier for students in the future to get the accommodations they need,” said Kerstin Sjoberg-Witt, director of advocacy for Disability Rights Ohio, in a news release. “Colleges and universities around the country should take note and work to make content and technology choices that will allow all potential students to tap into their educational resources. “
Aleeha Dudley attended the University from 2011 to 2015, to pursue a degree in zoology. During this time, the University failed to make available for her course materials in Braile, text-to-speech software or any other accessible format. Course materials lacked tactile graphics to represent the visual components of course materials. Online course materials were similarly inaccessible.
In January 2014, Dudley filed a federal Americans with Disabilities Act lawsuit against the University, with the assistance of DRO, the National Federation of the Blind, the law firm of Brown, Goldstein & Levy, and Ohio State University Professor Ruth Colker. The DOJ intervened in the case, and filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio.
Under the settlement agreement [PDF], the University must contribute $108,000 to Dudley’s education expenses at a university of her choosing, repay $50,000 in student loans she paid for her education at the University, and pay $102,000 in pain and suffering damages.
Under a separate consent decree with the DOJ [PDF], the University must make its website and software programs disability accessible, make it easier for students to access accessible materials, and provide extensive staff training.
Disability Rights Ohio and Disability Rights Washington are the designated protection and advocacy agencies in Ohio and Washington, respectively, and are members of the National Disability Rights Network.