After nearly two years of deliberation, the University of Montana and U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights have reached an agreement on how UM should improve electronic accessibility for students with disabilities.
The agreement's terms require the University to compile a report from current and former students with disabilities summarizing their experiences with accessibility. UM will also have to submit a report detailing the accessibility of classrooms, websites, learning management systems, library services and trainings.
The agreement, announced Wednesday, arose from a 2012 complaint filed by the Alliance for Disability and Students at the University of Montana.
“I think (the agreement) is great because it documents this as an issue,” said Courtney Damron, chair of ADSUM. “It’s good because people are going to be watching and that will only strengthen this policy and increase the accessibility.”
According to the complaint, UM’s library databases, learning management system, live chat, videos, course registration and classroom clickers were inaccessible to students with disabilities. UM will have to make changes to many of these issues by certain deadlines, according to the resolution agreement.
Lucy France, UM’s legal counsel, said that as soon as the concerns were known, UM put together an accessibility audit, increased training and procedure awareness and made information more available on how to remove barriers to information technology.
“Trainings on these issues have been occurring for a long time and will continue, we’re just improving a lot of the things that are already in place,” France said.
UM will also have to implement electronic information policies and procedures, according to the agreement.
Amy Capolupo, director of Disability Services for Students, said UM has drafted electronic information policies and procedures. The University has already begun training faculty and staff on the policies and procedures, Capolupo said.
“In the '80s and '90s the struggle was to make UM physically accessible,” Capolupo said. “So fast forward to now in terms of information technology, we now have an office of accessible instruction and three dedicated staff members to make sure that when we purchase something, it’s accessible.”
Specifically, resources were shifted in IT Central and UM Online to fund equipment and personnel, Capolupo said.
“The University of Montana is poised to become one of the most accessible campuses in the country as a result of this,” Capolupo said.
To find the resolution agreement, or for more information, visit umt.edu/accessibility.