Penn State University OCR Settlement

Synopsis

  • This case was brought by the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) on behalf of students enrolled at Penn State University.
  • The complaint was unusually broad-based and resulted in a wide-ranging settlement agreement.

Outcomes

Accessibility Audit

  • The University will complete a technology audit that covers websites, application processes, library services, course management systems, classroom environments, course registration systems, and 'clickers'.

Policy/Procedures

  • The University will develop and post an EIT Accessibility Policy Statement.
  • The University shall develop and disseminate procedures to implement this policy.

Training/Awareness

  • The University will conduct training at all levels of the University regarding procedures, tools, and techniques available to faculty and staff to comply with the Policy.
  • The University will provide information for faculty and staff who develop or post content on the website or through other technologies regarding how to make digital information accessible.
  • The University will provide presentations and workshops to academic leadership (deans, department heads) and IT staff.
  • The University will maintain a website that lists resources, tools, and trainings.

Staffing

  • The University will hire or designate a staff person to mointor the Policy and procedures.
  • Each campus will designate a full-time employee to attend an annual accessibility conference.

Procurement

  • The University will develop and implement procedures to purchase or recommend only E&IT that provdie comparable accessibility for individuals with disabilities.
  • Exceptions will be granted if this requirement is not technically feasible; however alternative, accessible EIT must be identified.
  • The University will include RFP language indicating that bidders meet WCAG 2.0 level AA standards for web technologies and Section 508 for other EIT. Additionally, vendors should warrant taht their products comply with these standards.

Library Services and Website

  • The University library website will conform to WCAG 2.0 level AA.
  • The University will conduct monthly scans to monitor new content, notify authors if corrections are required, and monitor corrective actions.

University Website

  • All University websites will adopt WCAG 2.0 level AA standards.
  • No later than October, 2014, all pages hosted on the University website that were published or updated after August, 2009 will be accessible. All other pages will be made accessible upon request in a timely manner.

Course Management Systems

  • The University will replace their current CMS with one that complies with Section 508. This new system will be piloted through August, 2014.

Classrooms

  • The University will implement systems that allow blind faculty to control the classroom equipment without assistance.

Clickers

  • The University will only utilize clicker technologies that include options that allow usage by the blind at the same price and time as other students.

Grievance/Reporting Procedures

  • The University will establish and disseminate procedures to allow complaints regarding EIT accessibility barriers.
  • Complaints must be investigated and responded to within 60 days.
  • The University wil provide NFB an annual report that summarizes progress.

Lessons

  • Prioritization: This settlement encompasses accessibility issues for both students and employees. While campus accessibility efforts often focus heavily on student-facing and public-facing technologies, campuses must also consider programmatic access for staff and faculty.
  • Comparable Access: The settlement defines 'accessible' as "fully and equally accessible to and independently usable...". Solutions that require assistance by non-disabled individuals don't provide comparable access to information, interactions, and services.
  • Precedent-setting: This settlement is likely to be used as a template for future complaints brought by disability advocacy groups.

References