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Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights Conducts Accessibility Compliance Review

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The U.S. Dept. of Education and South Carolina Technical College System (SCTCS) agreed to ensure that SCTCS websites and its 16-member colleges are accessible to persons with disabilities.

On March 8, 2013, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced that it has entered into an agreement with the South Carolina Technical College System (SCTCS) “that will ensure that the websites of SCTCS and its 16-member colleges are accessible to persons with disabilities.”

OCR’s announcement of a proactive compliance review puts educational institutions across the country on notice that accessibility to Electronic and Information Technology (EIT) is increasingly viewed as a civil rights as well as a human rights issue. Highlighting how critical access to EIT has become, Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Seth Galanter said “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.”

OCR’s announcement also identified the federal laws enforced by the Department of Education as Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Highlighting the requirement for more transparency, accountability and collaboration in the management of accessible Electronic and Information Technology , the Office of Management and Budget published a Strategic Plan for Improving Management of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act in January 2013. The plan pointed out that while EIT accessibility was identified a strategic outcome by many federal agencies, “disparities exist in the implementation and management” of the Section 508 program. It identified specific actions that federal agency Chief Information Officers were required to do to improve accountability and better manage Section 508 implementation.

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