The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) today announced that it has entered into an agreement with the South Carolina Technical College System (SCTCS), the state's largest higher education system, that will ensure that the websites of SCTCS and its 16-member colleges are accessible to persons with disabilities.
Colleges and universities increasingly provide information to employees, applicants, students and others through their websites. As part of a proactive compliance review, OCR assessed the accessibility of websites operated by SCTCS and two of its colleges to people with visual disabilities. OCR found that the sites were not readily accessible to persons who are blind, have low vision, or have other print-related disabilities. The office determined that the sites were not in compliance with two federal laws enforced by the Department of Education -- Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
In response to this finding, SCTCS and its governing board, the State Board of Technical and Comprehensive Education (SBTCE), entered into a voluntary resolution agreement to ensure that all content on the websites will be accessible to students with visual and other print-related disabilities.
Under the terms of the agreement, SCTCS and its board will:
- Develop a resource guide that provides information about web accessibility requirements;
- Direct that the SCTCS website and the websites of all the member colleges be accessible to students with disabilities; and
- Annually review the system’s and colleges’ websites and monitor steps taken to correct any accessibility problems identified.
"All students with disabilities, including those who are blind, should have full access to the information on a school's websites," said Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Seth Galanter. "Schools today rely on websites to register students, distribute course materials, collect homework, and administer quizzes. Students with disabilities cannot be denied the same opportunity to access these services on the web 24/7 from anywhere. As a result of this agreement, SCTCS will now ensure that the system's website and those of the member colleges will be accessible to all students, regardless of their disability."
Galanter praised the response of SCTCS and SBTCE to OCR's findings, saying, "I appreciate the efforts by the South Carolina Technical College System and its governing board to work cooperatively with OCR to address web accessibility for persons requiring assistive technology to access the Internet."
OCR will closely monitor SCTCS's implementation of the agreement. OCR will not stop monitoring the case until OCR determines that SCTCS has fulfilled the terms of the agreement and is in compliance with the provisions of Section 504 and Title II that were at issue in this review.
A copy of the resolution letter is posted at http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/investigations/11116002-a.doc. The agreement may be viewed at http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/investigations/11116002-b.pdf.
OCR's mission is to ensure equal access to education and promote educational excellence throughout the nation through the vigorous enforcement of civil rights. The office is responsible for enforcing federal civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination by educational institutions on the basis of disability, race, color, national origin, sex, and age, as well as the Boy Scouts of America Equal Access Act of 2001. For more information about the Office for Civil Rights, see http://www.ed.gov/ocr. For details on how OCR handles civil rights cases, please visit http://www.ed.gov/ocr/complaintprocess.html.