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"Dear Colleague," Signed the DOJ

On May 19, the U.S. Justice Department (DOJ) and the Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights (OCR) released a "Dear Colleague" letter. This letter serves as a reminder to colleges, universities, and post-secondary institutions about the importance of ensuring accessibility for people with disabilities in all their "online services, programs, and activities." It specifically addresses various aspects such as courses on learning platforms (edX, Coursera, Kadenze), podcasts, videos, lectures, conferences, sporting events, admissions information, graduation ceremonies, and other events on social media and third-party platforms (YouTube, Spotify, Apple Podcasts).

The letter emphasizes the responsibility of higher education institutions towards individuals with disabilities and highlights the need for compliance with the ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. These laws aim to provide equal access to online services and programs, ensuring non-discrimination and equal opportunities for individuals with disabilities in both public and private educational institutions.

Additionally, the letter reiterates the authority of the DOJ and OCR in  enforcing accessibility requirements for online programs and activities. As an example, in 2022, a settlement was reached between the Justice Department and UC Berkeley, in which Berkeley agreed to make it's online content accessible to people with disabilities.

It's worth noting that this is not the first instance of the DOJ issuing a Dear Colleague letter to the higher education community. In 2010, a similar letter was released by the Department of Justice and the Department of Education expressing concerns about the use of inaccessible electronic book readers in colleges and universities for students who were blind or had low vision. The joint letter provided guidance, information, and instructions to ensure that technological advancements in education benefit all students.


2023 - Dear Colleague Letter on Online Accessibility at Postsecondary Institutions

2010 - Joint "Dear Colleague" Letter: Electronic Book Readers

2007 - Dear Colleague Letter: Access by Students with Disabilities to Accelerated Programs

Maggie Vaughan, CPACC
Content Marketing Practitioner