National Federation of the Blind (NFB) President remarked that:
“This landmark agreement with the Seattle Public Schools should serve as a model for the nation and should put school districts on notice that we can no longer wait to have equal education for blind students and to have access to information, use of school services, and full participation in school activities by blind faculty, personnel, and parents. The National Federation of the Blind applauds the leadership of the Seattle Public Schools in adopting this agreement, and as a blind father and parent of two blind children I personally look forward to working with the district to implement this historic and comprehensive plan of action.” (Source: National Federation of the Blind Applauds Landmark Agreement with Seattle Public Schools)
The steps that Seattle Public Schools (SPS) will take under the decree include:
- Making its websites accessible to the blind, including parents like Ms. Nightingale, through existing technology;
- Hiring or appointing a system-wide accessibility coordinator, answerable to a cabinet-level official designated by the SPS superintendent;
- Conducting an accessibility audit of SPS’s electronic and information technology, as well as other programs, services, and activities, and developing a plan to remediate the accessibility issues revealed by the audit;
- Creating and maintaining an Accessible Education Resources Portal to help faculty and staff communicate effectively with people with disabilities and ensure accessibility of educational content, and to provide information about disability policies and services to students, faculty, and parents with disabilities;
- Inserting language into the system’s procurement requests and contracts requiring vendors to provide specific information about the compliance of their products and services with federal laws (such as the Americans With Disabilities Act) and accessibility guidelines, and requiring vendors to indemnify the school system for discrimination complaints resulting from inaccessibility of their products; and
- Training district officers, school administrators, faculty, and other key personnel on applicable laws, electronic and information technology accessibility guidelines, and the creation of accessible content.
These steps are clearly important, but they are steps toward a goal, not the goal itself. We need to ensure the intent and spirit of the ADA laws are central in the implementation process. The evolving and growing needs of people with disabilities can only be addressed if people with disabilities as employees and as advocates are incorporated into comprehensive plan of action.