Equitable Opportunities in the Classroom, Office, and Online

Written by Daniel Woodruff, University of Florida

Treat the disease, not the symptoms. The past four years, Harvard has been in a legal battle over closed captioning in their videos. While this is an issue, the true crime is consistent discrimination against blind and deaf persons. Make no mistake, this is not a Harvard – or even Ivy League – specific problem, but a nationwide epidemic. This is not a malicious act either, but a result of systematic conservatism.

The standard classroom, as most view it, offers significant challenges to students with disabilities. Accommodations are a chore for teachers and administrators alike, creating alternatives for those that cannot absorb material the “traditional” way. However, Anne-Marie Womack, the assistant director of writing at Tulane University, suggests this is the wrong position. She argues that “We’re wrong to think of accommodations as exceptions that detract from our normal way of doing things. Accommodating students is our normal way of doing things.”

At the Seminole County Legal Aid Society, we are of the same opinion. But accommodation does not stop at the high school level, nor at the collegiate level – accommodation is a societal necessity. As a result, our office is working to achieve complete accessibility. Blind and deaf persons, as well as others with disabilities, have trouble getting information from documents, websites, and videos. They need to use assistive devices such as screen readers to access material, but difficulties still present themselves. Pictures must have alt text assigned to them, otherwise their purpose is wasted; videos need closed captioning and/or transcripts.

We our proud to announce that our website is now screen reader friendly, including alt text for pictures and transcripts for videos. However, this is not the end. We have created one accommodation for our potential clients, donors, and volunteers, yet we must continue to adapt and adjust as other opportunities and problems present themselves. Treat the disease, not the symptoms.