Blind Parent Wins Battle for Access to Online Seattle School Resources

Seattle Public Schools will hire an accessibility coordinator as part of a consent decree between the district and a blind parent of a Seattle student.

By Paige Cornwell
Seattle Times, September 23, 2015

Seattle Public Schools will make its website and other online resources more accessible to blind students, faculty members and parents as part of an agreement tied to a lawsuit filed by a blind parent last year.

The Seattle School Board voted Wednesday to enter into a consent decree to settle the lawsuit, which alleges the districts websites and an online math program werent accessible to those who are blind.

The lawsuit was filed by Noel Nightingale, a blind parent of a Seattle student, and the National Federation of the Blind.

Under the agreement, the district will make its current websites accessible, hire an accessibility coordinator and create a website portal to help faculty and staff communicate effectively with people with disabilities.

The district estimates it will cost from $665,440 to $815,400 to implement the 3½-year decree. That includes funds to pay for an accessibility coordinator, staff training and attorney fees. Nightingale will receive $5,000 from the district for monetary relief.

Nightingale notified the district that its websites werent accessible in 2012. She said she had been able to use the website with a screen reader, which allows websites, documents and applications to be read aloud or displayed in Braille on another device. Changes to the website in 2012 made the site incompatible with the technology she used.

The district said it relayed the information to its website provider, which didnt fix the problem. It alleges the provider breached its agreement by failing to provide a website compliant with the standards outlined in the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Nightingale sued the district in August 2014, alleging discrimination. Her
lawyers said cheap, available programs were available to make the site compatible.

The agreement to settle the case is subject to the approval of the U.S. District Court for Western Washington.
Nightingale and the National Federation of the Blind applauded the boards vote, which they called historic and comprehensive.

This landmark agreement with the Seattle Public Schools should serve as a model for the nation and should put school districts on notice that we can no longer wait to have equal education for blind students and to have access to information, use of school services, and full participation in school activities by blind faculty, personnel, and parents, federation President Mark Riccobono said in a statement.

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