April 21, 1994
REGION IX Old Federal Building 50 United Nations Plaza. Room 239 San Francisco, California 94102
Dr. Queen F. Randall Chancellor Los Rios Community College District 1919 Spanos Court Sacramento, CA 95825-3981
(In reply, please refer to Docket Numbers 09-93-2214-I, 09-93-2215-I, 09-93-2216-I.)
Dear Chancellor Randall:
On September 22, 1993, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR), U.S. Department of Education (Department), received the above referenced complaints filed against the American River College (hereinafter ARC), Cosumnes River College (hereinafter CRC), and Sacramento City College (hereinafter SCC). The complainant alleged that these colleges discriminated against her on the basis of her disability (visual impairment) in that their campuses are allegedly not fully accessible to visually impaired students with regard to written materials, the computer laboratory, the library, physical education courses, and student employment services and opportunities.
OCR has the responsibility under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and its implementing regulation at 34 C.F.R. Part 104, to ensure that a recipient of Federal financial assistance through the Department does not discriminate against persons participating in its programs and activities, such as students, on the basis of disability. OCR also has jurisdiction as a designated agency under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and its implementing regulation at 28 C.F.R. Part 35, over complaints of disability discrimination filed against public educational entities, including public elementary and secondary systems and institutions. The Los Rios Community College District (District) campuses at ARC, CRC, and SCC, receive Federal funds through the Department and are public educational entities; OCR therefore has jurisdiction to investigate these complaints pursuant to Section 504 and Title II.
Under Section 504 and Title II, as to a recipient of federal funds and a public entity, respectively, no qualified individual with a disability shall, on the basis of disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, programs, or activities, or be subjected to discrimination.
Under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, 28 C.F.R. SS 35.160, a public entity shall take appropriate steps to ensure that communications with applicants, participants, and members of the public with disabilities are as effective as communications with others. A public entity shall furnish appropriate auxiliary aids and services where necessary to afford an individual with a disability an equal opportunity to participate in, and enjoy the benefits of, a service, program, or activity conducted by a public entity. In determining what type of auxiliary aid and service is necessary, a public entity shall give Primary consideration to the requests of the individual with disabilities [emphasis added].
The Department of Justice (DOJ) interpretive guidance accompanying section 35.160 states that "Deference to the request of the individual with a disability is desirable because of the range of disabilities, the variety of auxiliary aids and services, and different circumstances requiring effective communication.". The DOJ guidelines are clear that printed materials are within the meaning of "communication." In describing the auxiliary aids and services that are appropriate, the DOJ guidelines recognize the critical role that modern technology now plays in providing program access to persons with disabilities.
OCR provides the following technical assistance. Due to the "range of disabilities" and the "primary consideration" accorded the individual's preference in the manner accommodation is offered, the post-secondary public institution should be prepared to deliver in a reasonable and timely manner the printed materials relied upon in its educational program in all of the following mediums: auditory, tactile (Braille), and enlarged print. Although there may be circumstances when the student's preferred medium is not, on balance, the medium selected by the post-secondary institution to provide the student appropriate aids and services, the institution may not categorically refuse to provide accommodation through a particular medium (e.g., Braille). Rather, the post-secondary institution must be prepared to timely offer access to its printed materials in all three mediums, with the particular medium used for the student's request dependent on a case by case analysis. It should be noted that if the student with the visual impairment prefers, and the public entity is willing to provide, access through "E-text" (electronic text in a digital format read by computer), such method may be used in lieu of access through another medium.
In most instances, "timely" will mean within a reasonable number of days from the student's request, with materials for which "time is of the essence" being made available sooner, and other more voluminous printed materials (e.g., textbook) taking longer. Materials that the public entity is on notice that the student with the visual impairment will need, such as course handouts/examinations in a class the student is enrolled, are to be provided to the student with the visual impairment on the same day as they are made available to nondisabled students. The importance and consequences of student comprehension is a critical factor in determining whether to honor the student's preferred medium. Thus, for example, there is a strong presumption that examinations will be provided in accordance with the student's request, whereas there is more latitude with regard to a student events/activities calendar. The term "printed materials" includes (but is not limited to) post-secondary publications such as student handbooks, admissions applications, class schedules, financial aid information, as well as publications from other sources relied upon by the post-secondary institution in its educational program, such as textbooks. Provided that under the circumstances the method is timely and effective (e.g., voice quality, correct pronunciation, convenience, etc.), auditory access may be accomplished through a variety of methods such as audio-tapes, personal readers, or synthesized speech.
At any point in an OCR investigation prior to a determination, OCR may administratively close the case if the recipient indicates a willingness to resolve all issues raised by the complaint, and provides OCR a written commitment specifying actions that will appropriately resolve each issue. During the investigation of these complaints, the District expressed a willingness to resolve the issues raised by the complaints by providing OCR with a written commitment that specifies the action to be taken to ensure an appropriate resolution of the issues involving ARC, CRC, and SCC.
On April 18, 1994, the District provided OCR with a voluntary resolution plan (copy enclosed) which addresses the issues raised in the above referenced OCR case docket numbers. In its voluntary resolution plan, the District assured OCR that, by specified dates, it would 1) develop written procedures by which students with disabilities may request academic adjustments/auxiliary aids, and obtain assistance in resolving any problems with instructor provision of the adjustments/aids, 2) make its printed materials and computers fully and timely accessible (via auditory, tactile/braille, and enlarged print) to its visually impaired population, and 3) make its physical education courses, its library, and its student employment services and opportunities accessible to students with visual impairments. Certain specific provisions of the District voluntary resolution plan addressed issues pertaining to the complainant in particular.
OCR has concluded that the District voluntary resolution plan resolves the issues in these cases. The cases are therefore being administratively closed as of the date of this letter. OCR is concurrently advising the complainant of this action. The closure of these complaints is not intended to signify any findings by OCR concerning the compliance or noncompliance of the District campuses with regard to the specific allegations raised by the complainant. Rather, these cases are being closed based upon the District assurance that it will be implementing the terms of its voluntary resolution plan. OCR will monitor implementation of the agreement and, if the District does not complete its commitments as scheduled, OCR will immediately reopen the case and resume its investigation. Thus, any future failure by the District to implement its voluntary resolution plan may, upon completion of an OCR investigation, result in OCR finding the District in violation of Section 504 and/or Title II.
Under the Freedom of Information Act, it may be necessary to release this document and related records on request. If OCR receives such a request, it will seek to protect, to the extent provided by law, personal information which, if released, could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of privacy.
OCR would like to thank you for your cooperation during the course of the resolution of these cases. If you have any questions regarding the closure of these cases, please contact Mr. Charles R. Love, Director, Compliance Division I, at (415) 556-7025.
Sincerely, John E. Palomino Regional Civil Rights Director
cc: Mr. Max McDonald Interim President American River College
Dr. Robert M. Harris President Sacramento City College
Dr. Marc E. Hall President Cosumnes River College
LOS RIOS COMMUNITY COLLEGE
Sacramento City College American River College Cosumnes River College
April 18, 1994
John E. Palomino Civil Rights Director, Region IX Old Federal Building 50 United Nations Plaza, Room 239 San Francisco, CA 94102
Reference: Docket Nos: 09-93-2214I 09-93-2215I 09-93-2216I
Dear Mr. Palomino:
In order to resolve the allegations contained in the above referenced complaints, the Los Rios Community College District agrees voluntarily to the following resolution plan:
The Los Rios Community College District (the District) assures the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (OCR) that by August 15, 1994, the District will develop written procedures by which students with disabilities may seek academic adjustments/auxiliary aids and that it will make arrangements (e.g., student handbook, registration materials, etc.) for notifying students with disabilities that assistance with obtaining access to the District's educational program is available by contacting a designated staff person (one) on each campus.) The designated staff person will have responsibility for clarifying documentation needed from the student requesting academic adjustments and/or auxiliary aids, and for coordinating implementation of the aids/adjustments with course instructors.
In particular, by the start of the Fall 1994, semester, the District assures OCR that it will be fully and timely accessible (via auditory, tactile/braille, and enlarged print) to its visually impaired population with regard to printed materials and with regard to access to its computer facilities.
The District will document its plan for accessibility by that date through the following three stage process:
1) By May 13, 1994, the District will submit to OCR for approval its plan to provide timely access (auditory, tactile/Braille, enlarged print), including the specific District policies and procedures, and equipment, necessary for implementation. In this plan, the District will indicate which policies and procedures need to be drafted, which equipment needs to be purchased, and which persons are responsible for completing these tasks. In creating its plan, the District will consult with experts in relevant modern technology, with staff having experience in successfully providing access to persons with visual impairment (such as other schools), and with persons who are visually impaired. The District plan will state the basis (summary of research steps taken and information obtained) on which the research steps taken and information obtained) on which the District has concluded that its plan will timely provide access to students with visual impairments vis-a-vis mediums that are auditory, tactile/Braille, and enlarged print.
Also, by May 13, 1994, th District will provide OCR with a list of qualified individuals appointed to be members of a "library team" assigned to examine the District's library facilities to determine the appropriateness of services available to accommodate visually impaired students. The team will include one individual who is visually impaired.
2) By July 1, 1994, the District will submit to OCR for approval its proposed draft of District policies and procedures, and a description of arrangements made to purchase equipment needed. It is the District's understanding that OCR will provide sample policies for our review and use. The District will also designate a staff person on each campus to whom individuals with visual impairments may go and who has the authority to promptly resolve difficulties the individual with the visual impairment may encounter in obtaining access to the District's programs. In addition to the foregoing plan to provide individuals with visual impairments access to the District's printed materials and computers, the District assures OCR that individuals with visual impairments will have an opportunity to participate in physical education that is comparable to that afforded nondisabled individuals. By July 1, 1994, the District will submit to OCR a list of physical education courses that are open to students with visual impairments, and a brief description of how the course may be modified as to the visually impaired student to reasonably accommodate his/her disability.
3) By August 15, 1994, the District will submit to OCR copies of final District policies and procedures, to be submitted to the Board of Trustees for adoption, and of materials that will be used to notify appropriate staff, faculty, and students. Also, by August 15, 1994, the District will provide OCR with a copy of the Library Team's accessibility report and a summary of steps Taken/to be taken to make its research resources accessible to individuals with visual impairments. The District also assures OCR that by August 15, 1994, its restrooms will be "gender identified" to visually impaired persons through a tactile marking that meets the standards of either UFAS (Section 504) or ADAAG (ADA).
Finely, the District assures OCR that its student employment services office will be accessible to students with visual impairments. By August 15, 1994, this includes a method by which job opening notices are made accessible upon request to visually impaired students on the same day as such notices are posted for nondisabled students.
With respect to the complainant in this case, by May 6, 1994, the District assures OCR that it will:
a) Offer the complainant an opportunity to reenroll in the Business Office Machines (Electronic Calculator) and Transcription courses at no additional fee. Ensure that the equipment utilized for these courses has the adaptations necessary to reasonably accommodate her disability. b) Schedule a meeting with the complainant and staff of the Job Placement Center to review her concerns about employment on the Campus or with outside agencies.
C) Provide the complainant with appropriate forms and assistance in order to petition to remove any failed or negative grades received by her which resulted from the unavailability of adaptive equipment.
Should you need any additional information from the District or if this proposed resolution plan needs modification, please contact Mary Jones, Director, Personnel Services at (916) 568-3101.
Sincerely, Queen F. Randall ChancelLor