November 23, 2022
By 2016, the University of California, Berkeley, had adopted a habit of posting many videos of its conferences, lectures, sporting events, graduation ceremonies and other events on its website, YouTube, Apple Podcast channels and other platforms, along with its courses on the UC BerkeleyX platform. But in August of that year, the U.S. Justice Department alleged that significant portions of that online content were inaccessible to individuals with hearing, vision or manual disabilities. Since that violated Title II of the Americans With Disabilities Act, the government asked the university to implement procedures to make its online content accessible.
Rather than complying with the accessibility order, Berkeley began removing more than 20,000 video and audio lectures from public view.
This week, the Justice Department announced that it had reached a proposed consent decree with the university to resolve the 2016 allegations. If a judge approves the agreement, Berkeley will “make all future and the vast majority of its existing online content accessible to people with disabilities.”
Though the Americans With Disabilities Act was signed into law in 1990, the Justice Department has been working out in real time how the law applies at the intersection of higher education and technology. High-profile cases such as this one with Berkeley can often help raise awareness about the challenges people with disabilities face in an increasingly digital world. Though disability rights advocates widely welcome news of the consent decree, many consider it long overdue. The news comes on the heels of a pandemic boost in digital course materials access, which some fear could be lost as people return to pre-pandemic behaviors.