National Federation of the Blind and Blind Student File Suit Against Maricopa Community College District
Complaint Alleges Mesa Community College Student Experienced Discrimination
Phoenix, Arizona (May 22, 2012): The National Federation of the Blind, the nation’s leading advocate for the equal education of blind students, and Sebastian Ibanez, a blind student who recently graduated from Mesa Community College, have filed suit (Case No.: CV 12-907-PHX-NVW) against the college and the Maricopa Community College District, alleging discrimination against Mr. Ibanez and other blind students. The complaint alleges that Mr. Ibanez, as a blind student, could not register for his classes, complete online courses and assignments, access student services, or actively participate in his classes because of inaccessible technology purchased or deployed by the Maricopa Community College District and Mesa Community College. Among other things, college and third-party Web sites and software applications used for coursework and student services do not work with text-to-speech screen reading software, and “clickers” that are used to respond to questions in class cannot be operated independently by blind students. Most egregious of all, Mr. Ibanez was deliberately excluded from a class solely on the basis of his blindness. He attended the class but was told by the instructor that she did not feel comfortable teaching a blind student, and was subsequently electronically “dropped” from the class without his knowledge or consent.
Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: “Despite clear mandates for the equal education of students with disabilities contained in the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act, we continue to find that higher education institutions are not accommodating their blind students as required by federal law. As in too many other cases, this instance involves the needless and unlawful purchase and deployment of inaccessible technology. Worse yet, the case demonstrates again the deliberate disregard by some college faculty and staff for the rights of blind students. The National Federation of the Blind is once again forced to devote considerable time and resources to rectifying this discrimination. We will continue to do so until the day when battles like this one are no longer necessary. We cannot and will not tolerate unlawful discrimination against blind students, and we insist that they receive an education equal to that received by their sighted peers.”
The plaintiffs are represented in this matter by Joseph B. Espo of the Baltimore firm Brown, Goldstein, & Levy, LLP, and J.J. Rico of the Arizona Center for Disability Law.