FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Director of Public Relations
National Federation of the Blind
(410) 659-9314, extension 2330
(410) 262-1281 (Cell)
National Federation of the Blind and Penn State
Resolve Accessibility Complaint
Baltimore, Maryland (October 11, 2011): The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) and The Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) announced today that they have reached an agreement that will resolve a complaint filed against Penn State by the NFB with the United States Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights. There was no admission of any wrongdoing.
Penn State has agreed to continue implementing a strategy to make all electronic and information technology systems used on its campuses fully accessible to blind students, faculty, and staff. The information technology systems covered include course management systems, Web sites, classroom technology, library resources, banking services, and more. University Spokesman Lisa Powers said that Penn State strives to maintain strong academic leadership and has a long record of providing equal access to educational information and services for all students, faculty, and staff.
Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: “Universities must commit to making sure all of the technology that they use is accessible to blind students, or else the blind will be left behind in education and denied opportunity. We are pleased that Penn State, one of the largest and most recognized public universities in the country, has agreed to take additional steps to create an environment of equality in which blind students can pursue their educational and career aspirations without unnecessary barriers. The National Federation of the Blind hopes and believes that the steps that Penn State is taking will set an example for colleges and universities throughout the nation.”
"For more than twenty years Penn State has provided assistive technologies to students, faculty, and staff," Powers said. "We will work with the National Federation of the Blind and the Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights, to put in place the additional technologies, procedures, and ongoing policies that will help us continue meeting our strong commitment to access.”
The university has had a number of policies and programs in place to help individuals with disabilities, such as a classroom note-taking service, textbooks and course materials in electronic format, technology assistance, and adjustments in testing procedures, to name just a few. The university has a longstanding policy of providing reasonable accommodations to anyone requesting assistance.
"We can always do more," Powers said. "In addition to any continued adjustments to our policies, we also are working with our outside vendors to see if their products and procedures can be adjusted to meet the needs of our students."
Russlynn Ali, assistant secretary for civil rights, with the U.S. Department of Education, said: “Colleges and universities have specific legal obligations to provide students, faculty, and staff with disabilities the same benefits, programs, and services. This office is committed to working with complainants and institutions to ensure that the important nondiscrimination provisions of this nation’s laws are enforced and implemented.”
About the National Federation of the Blind
With more than 50,000 members, the National Federation of the Blind is the largest and most influential membership organization of blind people in the United States. The NFB improves blind people’s lives through advocacy, education, research, technology, and programs encouraging independence and self-confidence. It is the leading force in the blindness field today and the voice of the nation's blind. In January 2004 the NFB opened the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute, the first research and training center in the United States for the blind led by the blind.