Digital Accessibility Toolkit for State and District Education Leaders

StudentsAccessibility of websites and other digital technologies have seen increased attention this year from the Department of Education Office for Civil Rights when it comes to state departments of education and school districts.

eSchool News published a recent article about a Digital Accessibility Toolkit for state and district education leaders.  The toolkit provides an overview of digital accessibility in four areas:

  • Why accessibility is important;
  • Procurement of accessible technology by states and districts;
  • Benefits of accessible technology; and
  • The last section is a discussion of the legal requirements for digital accessibility.

Resources

And also check out the new Accessibility in Schools resource here on the Maine CITE website.

 

Movie Captioning and Audio Description Final Rule

Icon - reel of filmFrom ADA.gov…

On November 21, 2016, Attorney General Loretta Lynch signed a Final Rule revising the Justice Department’s Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) title III regulation to further clarify a public accommodation’s obligation to provide appropriate auxiliary aids and services for people with disabilities.

The Final Rule requires require movie theaters to:

  1. Have and maintain the equipment necessary to provide closed movie captioning and audio description at a movie patron’s seat whenever showing a digital movie produced, distributed, or otherwise made available with these features;
  2. Provide notice to the public about the availability of these features; and
  3. Ensure that theater staff is available to assist patrons with the equipment before, during, and after the showing of a movie with these features.

Title III of the ADA requires public accommodations, including movie theaters, to provide effective communication through the use of auxiliary aids and services.  This rulemaking specifies requirements that movie theaters must meet to satisfy their effective communication obligations to people with hearing and vision disabilities unless compliance results in an undue burden or a fundamental alteration.  For a summary of the Final Rule and its requirements, see the “Final Rule Questions & Answers.”

An advance copy of the Final Rule is available at this link… 

The official version of the Final Rule will be published in the Federal Register, and the Final Rule will take effect 45 days after publication.

Read more about these new rules…


Photo credit: Image in public domain by Pixabay.

Resources Available on Voting and Polling Place Accessibility

From the US Access Board:

The word "vote" with a wheelchair embeddedVoting is a fundamental and protected right for all citizens, including those with disabilities. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other laws, people with disabilities must have full and equal opportunities to vote. The Department of Justice (DOJ), which regulates and enforces ADA mandates that apply to state and local governments, offers several guides on the subject. These include the “ADA Checklist for Polling Places,” [PDF] a 25-page resource DOJ recently updated that explains what makes a polling place accessible from entry onto the site to voting areas. It also recommends design remedies and provides a survey checklist for evaluating polling place accessibility. Other resources from DOJ include a bulletin [PDF]  that provides solutions to common access problems at polling places and a guide [PDF] to federal laws that protect the rights of voters with disabilities.

In addition to the ADA, the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002 established requirements for voting systems used in Federal elections and requires access to polling places and voting systems for persons with disabilities. Under the law, each precinct in the country must have at least one accessible voting machine or system so that people with disabilities, including those with vision impairments, are afforded the same opportunity for participation, including privacy and independence, available to other voters. The Election Assistance Commission (EAC), which implements HAVA and issues guidance on meeting the requirements of the law, including guidelines for voting systems, is another key resource on accessible voting. The EAC offers a “BeReady16” toolkit that includes a section on accessibility, and other resources on accessible polling places and voting systems for voters with disabilities and voting officials. Visit EAC’s website at www.eac.gov for further information.

Those who encounter accessibility issues in voting can contact the Voting Section of DOJ’s Civil Rights Division which enforces civil provisions of federal laws that protect the right to vote, including HAVA and the Voting Rights Act. Complaints can be filed through an online form or submitted at voting.section@usdoj.gov (email), (800) 253-3931 (phone), (202) 307-3961 (fax), or the Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice, Room 7254 – NWB, 950 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., Washington, DC 20530.

DOE Publishes Guidance On Dyslexia

EducationOn October 23, 2015, the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services (OSERS) of the U.S. Department of Education published a Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) in response to questions regarding the use of the terms, “dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia in evaluations, eligibility determinations, or in developing the individualized education program (IEP) under the IDEA.” In the DCL, the Assistant Secretary notes, “…that there is nothing in the IDEA that would prohibit the use of the terms dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia in IDEA evaluation, eligibility determinations, or IEP documents.”

The DCL goes on to remind state and local educational agencies (SEAs and LEAs) that some of these terms are used in IDEA regulations under the definition of “specific learning disability” and outlines various methods that may be used to determine the presence of the condition and requirements for documentation. The Letter further points to three sources of technical assistance including the National Center on Intensive Intervention, the Center for Parent Information and Resources, and the National Center on Accessible Educational Materials.

The DCL ends with a statement that “encourages SEAs to remind their LEAs of the importance of addressing the unique educational needs of children with specific learning disabilities resulting from dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia during IEP Team meetings and other meetings with parents under IDEA.”

For more information, please read the OSERS Dear Colleague Letter of October 23, 2015 (PDF)…

Please also see our Laws and Policies resource page.

Blind parent wins battle for access

Information TechnologyAs reported in the Seattle Times – September 23, 2015

Seattle Public Schools will make its website and other online resources more accessible to blind students, faculty members and parents as part of an agreement tied to a lawsuit filed by a blind parent last year.

The Seattle School Board voted Wednesday to enter into a consent decree to settle the lawsuit, which alleges the district’s websites and an online math program weren’t accessible to those who are blind. The lawsuit was filed by Noel Nightingale, a blind parent of a Seattle student, and the National Federation of the Blind.

Under the agreement, the district will make its current websites accessible, hire an accessibility coordinator and create a website portal to help faculty and staff communicate effectively with people with disabilities.

Read the complete article from The Seattle Times online …

Justice and Education Departments Issue Guidance on Effective Communication in Schools

From the US Access Board

US Access Board logoThe Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Education (ED) have issued joint guidance on providing effective communication for students with disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), as well as the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504). This guidance, which includes frequently asked questions and a fact sheet, is intended to help schools, parents, students and others understand their obligations and rights under these laws.

IDEA requires schools to provide a free and appropriate public education consisting of special education and related services to all eligible children with disabilities. The ADA prohibits discrimination based on disability in the public and private sectors and includes requirements for public schools and other covered entities to provide appropriate auxiliary aids and services to ensure effective means of communication for people with disabilities. The new guidance explains these requirements and how they can be met in order to achieve effective communication for students with hearing, vision, or speech disabilities. It also highlights differences between these laws and notes that certain auxiliary aids or services may be necessary to satisfy the ADA even though they are not required by the IDEA.