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Schools' Websites Spur Barrage of ADA Complaints from Department of Education

Dave Gibson

While most web accessibility cases we hear affect businesses, school systems from K-1 to Higher Ed are also seeing a dramatic increase in actions. These cases are somewhat different as they're coming from The Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights.

One case reported by The Sponkesman-Review (Aug 9, 2017) : Spokane schools swept up in nationwide barrage of ADA website accessibility complaints, reports that a single woman, Marcie Lipsitt, based in Michigan has filed over 1,700 complaints with the Dept of Education's OCR. 

According to the story "Lipsitt also has filed U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights complaints against Gonzaga University, the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, the Idaho Department of Education, the Washington State School for the Blind and Washington State University."

"Each complaint takes about 30 minutes to file. The complaints focus on the accessibility of the organizations’ websites for those with disabilities as outlined in the ADA."

As opposed to the Department of Justice which can pick and choose which complaints to pursue, the OCR must investigate every complaint.

As the woman who issued the complaint against the Spokane Public School system states “I don’t file complaints to be a jerk,” she said. “I file them to fix problems.” 

So while many ADA legal actions are spurred by plaintiff law firms looking for easy money, others are instigated by legitimate people. And given the impact of just one activist in this case, those in education need to head this threat and pursue a plan to audit and remediate their websites based on Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0 AA).