OFFICE OF THE ASSISTANT SECRETARY
- Does the DCL apply beyond electronic book readers to other forms of emerging technology?
- Does the DCL apply to online courses and other online content, such as online applications for admission, class assignments, and housing?
- Does the DCL apply to pilot programs or other school programs that are of short duration?
- Does the DCL apply when planning to use an emerging technology in a class or school where no students with visual impairments are currently enrolled?
A: Yes. The core principles underlying the DCL — equal opportunity, equal treatment, and the obligation to make modifications to avoid disability-based discrimination — are part of the general nondiscrimination requirements of Section 504 and the ADA. Therefore, all school programs or activities — whether in a “brick and mortar,” online, or other “virtual” context — must be operated in a manner that complies with Federal disability discrimination laws.
A: Yes. The principles in the DCL apply to online programs that are part of the operations of the school, i.e., provided by the school directly or through contractual or other arrangements.
A: Yes. The complaints discussed in the DCL were based on pilot programs that were part of the schools’ operations. As noted in Question 5 above, all school programs and activities are subject to the nondiscrimination requirements of Section 504 and the ADA.
A: Yes. Schools that are covered under Section 504 and the ADA have a continuing obligation to comply with these laws. Therefore, the legal obligations described in the DCL always apply. Just as a school system would not design a new school without addressing physical accessibility, the implementation of an emerging technology should always include planning for accessibility. Given that tens of thousands of elementary, secondary, and postsecondary students have visual impairments and that the composition of the student body at a given school may change quickly and unexpectedly, the use of emerging technology at a school without currently enrolled students with visual impairments should include planning to ensure equal access to the educational opportunities and benefits afforded by the technology and equal treatment in the use of such technology. The planning should include identification of a means to provide immediate delivery of accessible devices or other technology necessary to ensure accessibility from the outset.