The Department of Justice (DoJ) and the University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley) have reached an agreement to resolve allegations that the school violated Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) because much of UC Berkeley’s free online content is inaccessible to individuals with hearing, vision, and manual disabilities.
The DoJ has filed a proposed consent decree in Federal court in which UC Berkeley agrees to make its online content more accessible to users with disabilities.
“This decree will provide people with disabilities access to the numerous free online courses, conferences, lectures, performances and other programming offered by UC Berkeley and its faculty, providing lifelong learning opportunities to millions of people,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.
Across multiple platforms – including its website, YouTube, Apple Podcasts, and its own UC Berkeley X platform – the school makes conferences, lectures, sporting events, graduation ceremonies and other university events available to the public.
However, the DoJ maintains that this content is not accessible to people with disabilities because it lacks captions and transcripts for individuals who are deaf and alternative text describing visual images for individuals who are blind. Additionally, the content is formatted in a way that does not allow individuals with disabilities to access the content using screen readers or other assistive technology.
The proposed three-and-a-half-year consent decree requires court approval. If approved, UC Berkeley will make all future and the vast majority of its existing online content accessible to people with disabilities.
DoJ said that includes BerkeleyX courses, university websites, as well as video and podcast content on its YouTube, Apple Podcasts, and other third-party platforms. UC Berkeley also agreed to revise its policies, train relevant personnel, designate a web accessibility coordinator, conduct accessibility testing of its online content, and hire an independent auditor to evaluate the accessibility of its content.
“Through this consent decree, the Department of Justice demonstrates its commitment to ensuring compliance with the ADA by providing individuals with disabilities a full and equal opportunity to participate in and enjoy the benefits of UC Berkeley’s services, programs and activities in equal measure with people without disabilities,” said U.S. Attorney Stephanie M. Hinds for the Northern District of California.