Berkeley Boosts Accessibility After Decree

The University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley) will move to make its online content more accessible to people with hearing, vision, and manual disabilities after reaching an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) to resolve government allegations that the school’s prior accessibility policies violated Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The accessibility improvements will stem from a proposed consent decree between DoJ and the university the carries a three and a half-year term.

“This decree will provide people with disabilities access to the numerous free online courses, conferences, lectures, performances and other programming offered by UC Berkeley and its faculty, providing lifelong learning opportunities to millions of people,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

UC Berkeley makes available plenty of events and other content – including conferences, lectures, sporting events, graduation ceremonies and other university events – available to the public through its website, YouTube, Apple Podcasts, and its own UC BerkeleyX platform.

The Justice Department, however, said that content is not well accessible to people with disabilities because it lacks captions and transcripts for individuals who are deaf, and alternative text describing visual images for individuals who are blind.

The content also is formatted in such a way that makes it inaccessible for people with disabilities to access it using screen readers or other assistive technology, DoJ maintains.

Under the proposed consent decree, UC Berkeley will make most of its existing online content, and all of its future online content, accessible to people with disabilities.

That content includes BerkeleyX courses, university websites, along with video and podcast content on its YouTube, Apple Podcasts, and other third-party platforms.

UC Berkeley will also revise policies, train relevant personnel, designate a web accessibility coordinator, conduct accessibility testing of its online content, and hire an independent auditor to evaluate the accessibility of its content.

“Through this consent decree, the Department of Justice demonstrates its commitment to ensuring compliance with the ADA by providing individuals with disabilities a full and equal opportunity to participate in and enjoy the benefits of UC Berkeley’s services, programs and activities in equal measure with people without disabilities,” said U.S. Attorney Stephanie M. Hinds for the Northern District of California.