The U.S. Department of Education’s office for civil rights has entered into an agreement with the South Carolina Public Charter District to make its Internet-based schools accessible to students and parents with disabilities, particularly those with visual impairments.
The district enrolls about 14,000 students in all, 9,000 of whom are in seven Internet-based schools.
Last spring, the civil rights office started investigating online classes at the district, said Wayne Brazell, its superintendent. It found that the Web-based courses lacked alternative-text attributes on buttons, especially on video controls; synchronized captioning; accessible PDFs; and animations that were not fully labeled. Additionally, some materials provided by third-party vendors were inaccessible, according to the investigation. The department said in a report that those issues prevent people with impairments from using the websites in the same way as people without disabilities.
As a result of the OCR findings, the charter district has agreed to create a Web-accessibility committee that will work with the schools to ensure access, develop and put in place a detailed accessibility plan, regularly complete compliance reports, and provide training on accessible Web design. The full agreement includes all the actions the district has agreed to take.
Mr. Brazell said the interactions with the department have been cooperative. The investigation was not driven by complaints from parents or students, he said, but reflect a current push toward OCR investigation of Web accessibility.
A version of this article appeared in the March 26, 2014 edition of Education Week as Charters to Improve Accessibility for Special-Needs Students