Blind student files discrimination suit against Miami University
January 13, 2014 / blind
With the assistance of the National Federation of the Blind, Aleeha Dudley, a blind student pursuing a degree in zoology with hopes of attending veterinary school, has filed suit (case number: 1:14-CV-00038) in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio against Miami University for discriminating against her on the basis of her disability. The complaint alleges that Miami University violated Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 by deliberately failing to make necessary modifications for Ms. Dudley so that she could complete her coursework. Among other things, the university failed to provide textbooks and course materials in accessible formats, including Braille; failed to provide proper tactile graphics to represent visual components of course materials; purchased and deployed inaccessible course management and assignment software; and more. If these modifications had been made, Ms. Dudley would have been able to use text-to-speech software and a refreshable Braille display to obtain the information she needed to succeed in her courses. Instead, the complaint alleges, her grades have suffered and she is behind in her degree requirements, not because of any deficiency in her own capabilities, desire to learn, or work habits, but because of Miami University’s failure to make modifications that it promised to make and that are required by federal law.
Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: “Ms. Dudley is only one of many blind students who experience frustrating and unnecessary barriers to a full and equal education in our nation’s institutions of higher education. Technology, if properly designed and implemented, can make it possible for students like Ms. Dudley to experience an equal education to an extent unheard of in the past, but Miami University has ignored its legal and moral obligations and failed to procure accessible technology and take other steps necessary to give Ms. Dudley the full benefit of her educational experience. The National Federation of the Blind cannot and will not tolerate such discrimination against Ms. Dudley and the rest of America’s blind students. We will pursue this case and others with vigor, continue to inform colleges and universities of their obligations, and insist that they meet those obligations.”
Ms. Dudley said: “My dream of becoming a veterinarian has turned in to a nightmare. I am so far behind in my coursework, and my grades have suffered so much, that I will not be able to pursue a veterinary degree and enter the job market on time, if at all. I am pursuing this case not only for myself, but so that other blind students who matriculate at Miami University will not experience the same frustration, exhaustion, and sadness that I feel today.”
Ms. Dudley is represented with the support of the National Federation of the Blind by Sharon Krevor-Weisbaum and Daniel F. Goldstein of the Baltimore firm Brown, Goldstein, & Levy, and Kerstin Sjoberg-Witt of Disability Rights Ohio.