Miami U. reaches deal with feds in blind student’s case

Miami U. reaches deal with feds in blind student’s case

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Miami University has reached an agreement on a consent decree with the Department of Justice resolving a dispute over the university’s responsibilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act to provide access to web and other technologies to individuals with disabilities. The case involves former student Aleeha Dudley who sued the school claiming that it did not adequately provide materials and technology to support her pursuit of a bachelor’s degree. Dudley, who is blind, settled with the university in 2015. BOB GARLOCK / STAFF

Miami University has reached an agreement on a consent decree with the Department of Justice regarding a lawsuit over the university’s responsibilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act to provide access to web and other technologies to individuals with disabilities.

The lawsuit was filed in 2014 by a former student, Aleeha Dudley, who is blind. The lawsuit alleged that Miami impeded her pursuit of a bachelor’s degree.

In February of this year, the university reached a settlement with Dudley that stated the school would cover expenses regarding tuition, books, room and board at Ohio State University toward a four-year undergraduate degree for her.

Miami agreed to pay actual costs up to $108,000, as costs are incurred, for up to five years. Miami also agreed to pay $142,000 less repaid loan amounts that are estimated to be between $40,000-$50,000 according to university officials.

While Miami continued to deny any liability, Mitch McCrate, deputy general counsel for the university said the settlement avoided the cost of litigation and allowed Dudley to pursue her education elsewhere.

“Six years ago the Department of Justice issued a formal Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to address the lack of specific requirements for web accessibility,” the university noted in a released statement. “Although no regulations have ever been issued, Miami has agreed under the consent decree to follow technical accessibility standards issued by independent organizations such as the World Wide Web Consortium.”

The decree states that Miami denies that it violated the disabilities law and is committed to providing equal opportunity.

Dudley, who’s from New Paris, sued the university in 2014. Her lawsuit said course materials were inaccessible to her text-to-speech software and she hadn’t received material in Braille or other forms she could use without help. Her lawsuit also said Miami violated federal law by failing to provide equal access.

Dudley said her hopes of being admitted to a graduate program were jeopardized by lackluster grades she blamed on barriers to completing coursework. She said touchscreen systems used at Miami prevented her from ordering food or even doing laundry without help.

The Journal-News will update this story when more information becomes available.

The Associated Press contributed to this story

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