University of Cincinnati, U.S. Education Department Reach Agreement to Ensure Equal Access to UC’s Websites for Individuals with Disabilities

Archived Information

University of Cincinnati, U.S. Education Department Reach Agreement to Ensure Equal Access to UC’s Websites for Individuals with Disabilities

December 18, 2014

The U.S. Department of Education announced today that its Office for Civil Rights has entered into an agreement with the University of Cincinnati to ensure that the school’s websites comply with federal civil rights laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of disability.

The agreement ends an OCR investigation and commits the 42,600-student public institution to providing equal access to educational opportunities for students with disabilities and to ensuring that the school’s websites are accessible to persons with disabilities, including students, prospective students, employees and visitors.

“I thank the University of Cincinnati for agreeing to make its website fully accessible to its entire student population, as well as to parents and other members of the public, consistent with the law,” said Catherine E. Lhamon, assistant secretary for civil rights. “Educational institutions must ensure that students with disabilities can access the educational opportunities and benefits of the institutions with substantially equivalent ease of use as students without disabilities.”

As part of its proactive investigation, OCR reviewed how accessible the university’s websites were to persons with disabilities, particularly those with sensory impairments who might use assistive technology to access the sites.

The office determined that the university is 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—because portions of the school’s websites were not readily accessible to persons with disabilities. OCR also found that the university is not in compliance with regulatory requirements concerning publication of a required nondiscrimination notice in relevant publications and the designation of, and contact information for, coordinator(s) designated to ensure compliance with these laws. 

In response to these determinations, and prior to OCR’s review of other areas of the university’s websites, the school entered into a resolution agreement to ensure that content on its sites is accessible to individuals with disabilities and that it is providing an equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities to participate in and benefit from its online learning environment.

Under terms of the agreement, the university will:

  • Designate one or more persons to coordinate its efforts to comply with Section 504 and Title II and identify that person(s) in its notice of nondiscrimination.
  • Develop and publish an appropriate notice of nondiscrimination.
  • Develop, adopt and provide notice of a web accessibility policy and an implementation and remediation plan to ensure adherence to the policy.
  • Provide training to staff responsible for webpage and content development, including faculty, as appropriate.
  • Review its website and e-learning platform(s) to identify and fix any accessibility problems, as well as to put in place mechanisms to ensure that the sites continue to be accessible.
  • Provide certification from a third-party web accessibility consultant or an employee of the university with sufficient knowledge, skill, and experience that the school’s electronic and information technologies meet the technical standard(s) adopted by the institution. And,
  • Provide OCR with reports describing its efforts for multiple subsequent school years to comply with its web accessibility policy and plan, including information documenting

A copy of the resolution letter can be found here, and the agreement is posted here.

OCR’s mission is to ensure equal access to education and to promote educational excellence throughout the nation through vigorous enforcement of civil rights. The office is responsible for enforcing federal civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination by educational institutions on the bases of disability, race, color, national origin, sex, and age, as well as the Boy Scouts of America Equal Access Act of 2001.

For details on how the office handles civil rights cases, please visit http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/howto.html.