In September, eight lawsuits were filed in federal court in Manhattan against New York schools that failed to make their websites accessible to a blind student—and are therefore in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act.
The New York Times story explained that these lawsuits are growing. The US federal law requires that public accommodations need to be accessible to individuals with disabilities.
Advocates and lawyers now argue that websites are public spaces that need to be accessible, with captions or audio descriptions.
The argument isn’t new. Since 2015, there have been at least 751 lawsuits on the issue—37 related to schools accused of noncompliance with disability law. Advocates for deaf students sued Harvard and MIT for not captioning online lectures and other course materials.
In the article, Arlene Kanter, director of the Disability Law and Policy Program at Syracuse University’s law school said, “As more and more students are aware of their rights, and as websites have become so much of what universities now focus on, in their marketing materials for example, it’s not surprising to me that there will be an increase in these types of lawsuits.”
What will happen? The outcome is unclear. The Americans With Disabilities Act, written in 1990, does not mention the internet. The Department of Justice has issued guidelines about the internet, but they’re not in place—and they’re not yet part of the Americans With Disabilities Act.
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