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Re: How is requiring browser X in violation of the WCAG?

From: Kelly Ford <kford@teleport.com>
Date: Fri, 04 Jun 1999 09:08:38 -0700
Message-Id: <>
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
I don't know if this was posted here or not.  It doesn't answer the
question directly but it certainly sounds like this online program goes
against what this letter implies a university should be doing.

                                        April 20, 1999

Robert C. Maxson
California State University, Long Beach
1250 Bellflower Blvd
Long Beach, CA  90840

(In reply, please refer to Docket Number 09-99-2041.)

Dear President Maxson:

On December 17, 1998, the U.S. Department of Education (Department), Office
for Civil Rights (OCR), received a complaint alleging that the California
State University, Long Beach (University) failed to provide a student with
the accommodations required by her disability (blindness) in order to
access the College of Business curriculum and other educational programs.

OCR has jurisdiction over the subject matter of this complaint and over the
University under both Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
(Section 504) and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities (Title II),
which prohibit recipients of Department funds and/or public institutions,
respectively, from discriminating against persons with disabilities.

Specifically, the complainant alleges that:

1) The computer laboratories/classes in the College of Business are not
equipped with adaptive technology so that she can take courses such as
Business and Information Systems, which is a prerequisite to her obtaining
a Bachelor of Science degree in her major Business Management.

2) Her course assigned textbooks, which contain substantial amounts of
graphs and charts, were not made accessible to her.

3) With respect to a particular Business Management course, the instructor
refused to provide her access to overhead transparencies and to implement
the appropriate accommodations for the course's final examination.

4) The doors of the offices of the College instructors are not marked in a
manner that enable her to identify the occupant instructor.

Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (Title II) requires
a public college to take appropriate steps to ensure that communications
with persons with disabilities "are as effective as communications with
others" [28 C.F.R. ' 35.160(a)].  OCR has repeatedly held that the terms
"communication" in this context means the transfer of information,
including (but not limited to) the verbal presentation of a lecturer, the
printed text of a book, and the resources of the Internet.  Title II
further states that, in determining what type of auxiliary aid and service
is necessary, a public college shall give primary consideration to the
requests of the individual with a disability [28 C.F.R. ' 35.160(b)(2)].

In construing the conditions under which communication is "as effective as"
that provided to nondisabled persons, on several occasions OCR has held
that the three basic components of effectiveness are timeliness of
delivery, accuracy of the translation, and provision in a manner and medium
appropriate to the significance of the message and the abilities of the
individual with the disability.

The courts have held that a public entity violates its obligations under
the Americans with Disabilities Act when it simply responds to individual
requests for accommodation on an ad-hoc basis.  A public entity has an
affirmative duty to establish a comprehensive policy in compliance with
Title II in advance of any request for auxiliary aids or services [see
Tyler v. City of Manhattan, 857 F. Supp. 800 (D.Kan. 1994)].  A recognized
good practice in establishing such a comprehensive policy is to consult
with the disability community, especially those members most likely to
request accommodations.

As universities have striven to provide effective communication to students
with disabilities with respect to computer technology, traditionally the
academic community has relied heavily on a single centralized unit on
campus to house and maintain the specialized adaptive technology equipment.
 This practice has been seen as a method for enabling a small number of
staff with adaptive technology expertise to serve a relatively large number
of students with disabilities.  However, such sole reliance upon a single
centralized location (when not limited to adaptive technology training, but
instead used for instructing disabled students in course subject matter)
may run counter to the strong philosophy embodied in Title II and Section
504 regarding the importance of fully integrating students with
disabilities into the mainstream educational program, unless such services
cannot be otherwise effectively provided [see 34 C.F.R. ' 104.4(b)(iv); 28
C.F.R. ' 35.130(b)(iv)].  Thus OCR assumes in most cases computer access
will be effectively provided to the student with the disability in an
educational setting with his or her nondisabled peers and classmates at the
various computer laboratory sites scattered throughout the campus.

In most OCR cases, at any point prior to completion of the investigative
stage of the case, the college may indicate that it is interested in
exploring voluntary resolution of the issues identified in the case.  A
commitment by the University to voluntarily resolve the issues usually
substantially reduces the necessity for further investigation and may
eliminate the need for OCR findings of compliance and/or noncompliance.  In
this case, the University elected to proceed toward voluntary resolution.

By letter received April 1, 1999, the University provided OCR with a
voluntary resolution plan which resolves the issues raised in this case.
This plan includes the following commitments (as well as others):  The
University will:

1) Develop and implement a written procedure describing which campus units
are responsible for installing and maintaining adaptive workstations
situated in College and central computer laboratories.

2) Develop and implement a systematic method for ensuring that the issue of
accessibility to persons with disabilities, particularly blind persons, is
taken into account when colleges purchase computer technology (software and

3) Develop and implement a systematic method for informing campus employees
who design/select web pages for use by students to make sure the web pages
are in accordance with principles known to maximize accessibility to users
with disabilities, including visual impairments.

If you have further questions regarding this letter, please contact Sarah
Hawthorne, Civil Rights Attorney, at (415) 556-4146.


                                                Robert E. Scott
                                                Team Leader
                                                Office for Civil Rights

cc:  Barbara J. Franklin, Acting Director, Equity and Diversity
Page 3 - (09-99-2041)
Received on Friday, 4 June 1999 12:07:55 UTC

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