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University of Montana Reaches Agreement With Department of Justice Over Services to Disabled Students [AUDIO]

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photo by Brooke Andrus

The University of Montana has reached an agreement with the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights to ensure educational accessibility for people with disabilities.

Vice President for Integrated Communications Peggy Kuhr said the agreement stems from a student complaint filed in 2012 that the university was discriminating against students with disabilities.

“About two years ago in the spring, a complaint was filed against the university about accessibility with electronic materials,” Kuhr said. “When we learned about that complaint, we immediately convened a task force of people from throughout the campus including people from the library, from IT, in classrooms and from online learning asking whether or not we are as accessible as we need to be, and that includes everything from the kinds of textbooks we use to the types of websites and videos that we have.”

Kuhr said since 2012, efforts have been spent making sure that accessibility has been achieved.

“Over the past two years, we’ve been making sure that in particular our technology is accessible to all students,” Kuhr said. “When that comes to students who are blind or have a visual disability, we ask if they can see our websites, or access materials from the classroom. Similarly, we ask anyone with a hearing disability, how can we make sure all students have access to what we use in the classroom these days?”

The resolution agreement outlines a comprehensive set of policies and procedures ensuring that all electronic and information technology at UM can be used by the blind and other students with disabilities.

Kuhr said much of the work has centered around the campus online learning management system, called Moodle.

“When you’re in class, you get signed into this online website for class materials and we make sure that you have various ways that you can get access to that information,” Kuhr said. “Part that that involves when we purchase new software, that the software itself is accessible, and it includes surveying students to make sure we are serving their purposes and their needs.”

Kuhr said the effort to comply with the terms of the agreement with the Department of Justice Office of Civil Rights goes even beyond the campus itself.

“Today, we have a couple of people giving presentations at a national convention about electronic publications, and about Moodle, our online learning management system, making sure that vendors provide us with materials that are accessible to all students,” Kuhr said. “The work continues with surveys for both students and faculty to make sure that if they need something such as subtitles on a video, or a different way to present a paper or a book, that we have services on campus that can make that translation happen for you.”

UM Vice President for Integrated Communications Peggy Kuhr

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