The U.S. Department of Education has launched a civil rights investigation into the University of Montana after a student filed a complaint alleging that the school’s learning management system is not adequately accessible to all students, reported the AP.
In the complaint the student, who is visually impaired, alleges that some of the videos loaded into the school’s learning management system, Moodle, don’t have adequate captions and scanned documents included as course material aren’t clear enough for a screen reading program to translate. The Missoulian reported that currently 75%-90% of UM classes have some online component.
The Alliance for Disability and Students at the University of Montana (ADSUM) first voiced concerns about accessibility issues in online content in 2007. After five years of working within university’s channels in an attempt to pressure the school to take action, ADSUM filed a complaint with the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights in May 2012.
UM officials told the AP that since students raised concerns about accessibility the school has added both staff for captions and sign language interpreters. The administration has also implemented a policy requiring faculty members to turn in instructional videos early so they can be captioned prior to the start of class.
Accessibility issues led UM to withdraw from a bulk textbook purchase program earlier this month, Campus Technology reported. Upon examination of materials provided by the program, the university’s disability services office determined that the content management system rendered textbooks as a scanned PDF instead of as a native text document, which caused problems for screen reading programs.
In a report on the bulk purchase program, issued on Aug. 1, the UM wrote that the problems were so severe they could expose the university to litigation.
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