edX settles inaccessible online courses case

Monday, 13 April 2015 12:34pm

Massive open online course (MOOC) provider edX has settled a case brought by the US Department of Justice (DoJ) alleging that its online courses breach accessibility requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Judge's gavel resting on a sounding block

In a statement on the settlement, the DoJ said that it had alleged that edX’s website,  and its platform for providing massive open online courses (MOOCs), were not fully accessible to individuals with disabilities, including individuals who are blind or have low vision, individuals who are Deaf or hard of hearing and individuals who have physical disabilities affecting manual dexterity

Title III of the ADA specifically nominates “private entities that offer certain examinations and courses related to educational and occupational certification” and requires that these entities “make reasonable modifications in policies, practices, and procedures that deny equal access to individuals with disabilities, unless a fundamental alteration would result in the nature of the goods and services provided”. 

The DoJ stated that the settlement with edX requires it to modify its website, platform and mobile applications to conform to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 AA, and to work with course suppliers to make their content accessible.

Specific actions required under the four-year agreement with edX include:

  • Making the edX website, its mobile applications and learning management system software, through which online courses are offered, fully accessible within 18 months
  • Ensuring that its content management system, called Studio, which edX makes available to entities creating online courses, is fully accessible and supports authoring and publishing of accessible content within an additional 18 months
  • Providing guidance to course creators at its member universities and other institutions on best practices for making online courses fully accessible
  • Appointing a Web Accessibility Coordinator
  • Adopting a Web Accessibility Policy
  • Soliciting feedback from learners on the accessibility of the courses
  • Conducting Web Accessibility Training for employees responsible for the website, platform and mobile applications
  • Retaining a consultant to evaluate conformance of the website, platform and mobile applications

EdX was created by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University in 2012, and now offers more than 450 courses from 60 education providers to more than three million users.

In a related action, Harvard and MIT were sued by the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) and four individuals who are Deaf and hearing impaired. Like the DoJ suit, the NAD suit alleged that the two universities violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act by denying access for Deaf and hearing impaired people to its MOOCs.

The full edX settlement [PDF, 0.17MB] can be read online.

You may also like:

  • The Professional Certificate in Web Accessibility online course
  • Our portal for web accessibility, including tips to enable access features in web browsers, how to find accessible media and information on web policy
  • Access iQ, a service of Media Access Australia for web development professionals

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