LOS ANGELES, Jan. 31, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- In December of 2019, Harvard University settled with the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) from a 2015 lawsuit alleging that the University failed to display closed captioning adequately on its publicly accessible online video and audio content. According to court documents in February of 2015, much of Harvard's free online content, which includes recorded lectures from professors and podcasts, lacked closed captioning or featured captioning that was "unintelligible."
The complaint argued that this lack of access to the deaf and hard of hearing deprived individuals of benefits afforded to those without disabilities. It also added that Harvard University violated the obligation of universities receiving federal funding to "provide people with disabilities access to their programs and activities," which is under the 1973 United States Rehabilitation Act.
When the settlement was reached, Harvard was ordered to take steps to improve the accessibility of content posted to its official website and associated media platforms. The university agreed to caption content it produced on or after Dec. 1, 2019, to Harvard websites and associated video websites. For selections of earlier material, the college now provides captions within five business days of a request for captions for that material. Harvard also offers captions to live streams of university events.
In addition to its closed captioning efforts, Harvard was required to pay attorneys' fees for the plaintiffs in the case, which totaled more than $1.5 million. A spokesperson for the NAD said that closed captioning is a vital component of making sure that learning is accessible for the deaf and hard of hearing. They went on to add that through this lawsuit, universities around the country would be put on notice in making all aspects of their campuses, including the web, accessible to the deaf and hard of hearing.
A spokesperson for Harvard said that the settlement aligned with other digital accessibility initiatives at the university, precisely, captioning that was provided before for HarvardX online courses and the school's Digital Accessibility Policy that was introduced in April of 2019. The Digital Accessibility Policy addressed captioning specifically for content posted to Harvard websites.
Harvard said that they were pleased to confirm the amicable resolution of the lawsuit brought by NAD regarding online captioning for video and audio content. They added that the settlement was grounded in the university's commitment to diversity, inclusion, and belonging. "Our websites provide a wealth of opportunities for our community members to communicate and to share ideas, and we want these websites to be available to everyone who wishes to access them," Harvard's spokesperson said.
Legal Justice Advocates
Legal Justice Advocates is a law firm that focuses on national issues, ensuring that its clients' others similarly situated are not being discriminated against. The law firm states that they regularly receive phone calls from frustrated defendants who need answers to their questions asking if they are being discriminated against and that they have a team of lawyers ready to answer those questions.
The complicated answer is, it depends. Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provides for equal access for persons with disabilities in places of public accommodation. It has made the country far more accessible. The ADA protects individuals with a wide range of disabilities, defining disability as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a significant life activity. The law also covers health impairments that require special education or related services.
Who Is Protected Under the ADA?
The ADA protects individuals with a wide range of disabilities, defining disability as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a significant life activity. The law also covers health impairments that require special education or related services. Some of the most common disabilities and impairments include:
Hearing impairments - A hearing impairment is any hearing loss that keeps someone from ultimately receiving sounds through their ears. When a hearing impairment limits your ability to perform a significant life activity, you are protected under ADA.
Vision impairments - Vision impairment may be defined as a loss of visual acuity or a loss of visual field. For people with vision impairments, small objects and standard written materials may be difficult to see.
Mobility impairments - Many types of conditions can impact mobility, including paralysis, stroke, muscular dystrophy, and spinal cord injury. Mobility impairments may require the use of walkers, wheelchairs, or canes, or limit the use of hands and upper extremities.
Places of public accommodation may not discriminate against people with disabilities and may not deny full and equal enjoyment of the goods and services they offer. A substantial number of businesses still do not comply with the ADA. Because of this non-compliance, the legislature added a provision to the Civil Rights Act stating that any violation of the ADA shall constitute a violation of state law.
A Plaintiff may now recover damages plus attorney's fees for a successful lawsuit under the Act. Legal Justice Advocates specializes in disability access lawsuits. They assert that they will fight to ensure that businesses no longer discriminate against the disabled. Attorneys at Legal Justice Advocates declare that they are committed to letting justice prevail.
Given U.S. Congress' admirable efforts to provide equal protection to disabled persons, this country must remain vigilant in ensuring that these protections are afforded in the marketplace. Every government agency does not enforce these laws. As such, private law firms like Legal Justice Advocates are available so their clients can have equal access to the public accommodations and information that is afforded to non-disabled citizens, as Congress intended when drafting these complicated and specific laws.
Federal courts in the United States are divided on the topic of whether Title III of the ADA's definition of "public discrimination" applies to websites or if it is limited to physical spaces. Courts in the First, Second, and Seventh Federal Circuit Courts of Appeals have issued rulings stating that a website can be a place of public accommodation regardless of any connection to a public space.
However, the Third, Sixth, Ninth, and Eleventh Federal Circuit Courts of Appeals have issued rulings that places of public accommodation must be physical spaces. This would come with the caveat that goods and services are provided by a public accommodation (which could be included through a website) might fall within the law if they have a sufficient link to a physical location. Then, a website owner would be subject to liability.
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines are a set of technical standards developed through an open, collaborative process involving both individuals and organizations around the world. Its goal is to provide a single, shared standard for web content accessibility that meets the needs of individuals, organizations, and governments internationally. The WCAG 2.0 AA standards also have been incorporated into an ISO standard by the International Organization for Standardization. However, the ISO standard is not law at this time.
Legal Justice Advocates says that they have a simple solution to website owners everywhere, which is to make their websites compliant to the standards of the ADA. Attorneys at Legal Justice Advocates maintain that they are committed to helping the disabled access the internet!
Jerome Ramarsan has joined the firm in a recent announcement to partner up with the other attorneys at Legal Justice Advocates are advocating for the rights of the blind, deaf, and disabled throughout the United States with offices in South Florida, New York, and Washington, D.C. If you know of a way that they can make a difference, they urge you to drop them a line and let them know.
SOURCE Legal Justice Advocates