OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn our present-day education system, technology is an essential, incomparable learning tool for students at all grade levels; and thus, the importance of its accessibility to each and every student cannot be overstated. However, some educational organizations around the United States have failed to provide user-friendly websites to people with disabilities, and the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) under the Obama Administration took notice.

In the last year alone, OCR investigated over 350 schools districts for violations of website accessibility for individuals with disabilities.  The OCR resolved the complaints against eleven educational organizations in seven states and one territory for these violations. These investigations were prompted by complaints that these organizations’ websites did not comply with the Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the American with Disabilities Act of 1990. In a nut shell, these regulations, which apply to online services and programs, prohibit discrimination of people on the basis their disability and ensures that communications with people with disability are as effective as communications with those without a disability.
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The FCC recently provided additional guidance about the kinds of school-initiated text messages and automated calls that are exempt from liability under the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). Below is a brief background of relevant portions of the TCPA, a summary of new guidance from the FCC, and a few open issues to consider.

The TCPA

The TCPA was passed in 1991 to curb the rampant and harassing telemarketing practices of the time, and established relatively high-dollar civil liability – $500 to $1500 per violation – as its enforcement mechanism. In relevant part, the TCPA makes it unlawful to use “an automatic telephone dialing system” to call (or text) any number assigned to a cellular telephone service, and allows the recipient to sue the caller if he/she received such a call. There are two statutory exceptions to liability under the TCPA:

  • where the recipient of the call provided his or her prior express consent to be called, or
  • where the call was placed for an “emergency purpose,” defined as “any situation affecting the health and safety of consumers.”

47 U.S.C. § 227 (b)(1); 47 C.F.R. § 64.1200(f)(4).
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