Last week, Harvard and M.I.T. were both sued by advocates for the deaf for violating antidiscrimination laws by not providing closed captioning in online material. The complaint says that online lectures, courses, and podcasts either lack closed captioning entirely or are not accompanied by accurate captioning. Thus, deaf students are unfairly disadvantaged.
Jeff Neal, a spokesman for Harvard, said that the university expected the Justice Department to propose new laws that would provide “much-needed guidance in this area” and that Harvard would follow any laws that were created.
Harvard and M.I.T. are not unique in this area. Universities nationwide are experiencing difficulties in making online content equally accessible to everyone. For example, Penn online lectures also often lack closed captioning, causing these educational innovations to be inaccessible for deaf students.
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