Home News College Websites Must Accommodate Disabled Students, Lawsuits Say

College Websites Must Accommodate Disabled Students, Lawsuits Say

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The lawsuits came one after the other, against Fordham University, Manhattan College, Long Island University and other area colleges and universities.

In all, eight suits have been filed in federal court in Manhattan over the past two weeks, most recently against Hofstra University on Long Island on Oct. 4. In each case, lawyers for Emanuel Delacruz, who is blind, charged that the college’s website is inaccessible to their plaintiff and therefore in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act.

The filings are part of a growing number of actions involving accessibility and the internet. The federal law requires that public accommodations be accessible to those with disabilities, and legal battles have long revolved around physical spaces and therefore physical solutions, such as elevators or wheelchair ramps. Now, advocates and lawyers argue, websites are also public spaces and need to be accessible, with things like captions or audio descriptions.

Since January 2015, at least 751 lawsuits have been filed over the issue. The vast majority have focused on retailers and restaurants, according to a legal blog that tracks such suits. Only seven of the suits have been directed at academic websites. Mr. Delacruz’s suits alone doubled that count. And another website, which includes not only lawsuits but also government investigations into web or technological accessibility, lists 37 schools that have been accused of noncompliance with disability law.

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