The U.S. Department of Education announced today that its Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has entered into an agreement with South Carolina Charter School District to ensure compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1972 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act for students with disabilities in the District.
OCR initiated a compliance review in 2013 to assess whether the seven Internet-based public charter schools that serve more than 8,700 students who live throughout the state of South Carolina provide equal access to persons with disabilities, including students and parents. Specifically, OCR's investigation sought to determine whether persons with disabilities had an equal opportunity to access each school's website and online learning environment.
"All personswith and without disabilitiesmust be able to obtain school information on a full, equal and independent basis. This agreement will ensure that persons with disabilities are afforded equal access to the District's internet-based public charter schools and any future District schools that will provide all or a portion of instruction via the internet," said Catherine E. Lhamon, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights. "I commend the South Carolina Charter School District for addressing these issues as part of its agreement with OCR."
OCR determined that the schools' websites and online learning environments were not readily accessible to persons with disabilities, including those who required assistive technology to access the Internet. The most frequent concerns were lack of alternative text attributes on buttons, especially on video controls; lack of synchronized captioning; inaccessible PDFs; and animations that were not fully labeled. Additionally, some materials provided by third party vendors were inaccessible. These problems prevent persons with disabilities, particularly those with visual, hearing, or manual impairments, or who otherwise require the use of assistive technology to access the website or the online learning environment in an equally effective and equally integrated manner as persons without a disability.
South Carolina Charter School District is the local educational agency for 24 charter schools in South Carolina. Seven of these schools are Internet-based and deliver instruction completely online. These schools include Palmetto State e-Cademy, Provost Academy South Carolina, South Carolina Virtual Charter School, South Carolina Calvert Academy, South Carolina Connections Academy, South Carolina Whitmore School, and Cyber Academy of South Carolina.
Under the agreement, the District will ensure that all websites and on-line learning environments are accessible to persons with disabilities, including those who use assistive technology to access the internet. The agreement provides that:
- The District will create a web accessibility committee to direct resources and provide technical assistance as schools work to ensure web accessibility.
- The District will develop and implement an accessibility policy that requires all schools that provide instruction via the internet to be readily accessible and useable.
- Each school will develop and implement a detailed accessibility plan to ensure that all programs and activities meet the standards in the accessibility policy, including recruiting material, online textbooks, mobile applications, testing, resources for parent/guardians, and audio and video recording recasts.
- Each school will regularly complete an accessibility report that measures the school's compliance with the accessibility policy and will submit audit reports annually that describe steps taken to maintain the website's accessibility, as well as steps taken to ensure that new programs and content are accessible.
- The District will develop and provide training on how to ensure accessible web design and implementation.
- The District will certify to OCR that the District meets the requirements of the accessibility policy.
- OCR will closely monitor the District's implementation of the agreement.
A copy of the resolution letter can be found here: http://www2.ed.gov/documents/press-releases/south-carolina-charter-school-letter.doc.
A copy of the agreement can be found here: http://www2.ed.gov/documents/press-releases/south-carolina-charter-school-agreement.doc.
The office's mission is to ensure equal access to education and promote educational excellence throughout the nation through the vigorous enforcement of civil rights. OCR 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. Additional information about OCR is available at http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/index.html.