The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) just announced a resolution agreement with the Virtual Community School of Ohio to guarantee equal access to educational opportunities to students with disabilities. It specifically addresses rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.
OCR's letter noted that the school had insufficient procedures to identify students with disabilities, test them, and develop 504 plans to meet their educational needs. It noted that online schools lack a typical teacher referral method because teachers do not regularly observe students in a classroom setting. It also questioned whether the school provided sufficient access to learning in its online environment for visually impaired students and students with learning disabilities. The OCR identified several features of the school's website and courses that were not accessible to students with low vision. Ultimately, the OCR "concluded that the School has not provided individuals with disabilities, including visual impairments, with an equal opportunity to participate in or benefit from its web-based education program and that access to its website and web-based education program is not as effective for individuals with disabilities as that provided to individuals without disabilities" (Resolution Letter, Analysis and Conclusion).
To remedy this situation, the Virtual Community School agreed to develop new procedures to identify and place students who need 504 plans. It will also revise its website and online learning environment to ensure its accessibility to students with disabilities.
This is the first of its kind resolution agreement, so it provides important guidance to virtual schools around the country as they develop and implement their procedures for complying with the legal requirements for students who qualify for 504 plans under the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. It lists specific deficiences in the identification procedures, evaluation processes, and educational web delivery systems. Schools that deliver educational content online should review this resolution agreement.
A copy of the announcement can be found here: