Student Group Reacts To UM's Agreement With DOE - ABC FOX MONTANA NEWS, WEATHER, SPORTS - KTMF/KWYB

Student Group Reacts To UM's Agreement With DOE

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MISSOULA -

The University of Montana vows to make its educational tools more accessible as part of agreement with the U.S. Department of Education. The agreement comes after a student group filed a complaint in May 2012, saying UM discriminates against students with disabilities.

UM is establishing new policies and procedures to make its educational programs more accessible to the 1,200 students who have a disability on campus.

"Basically UM is adopting a higher standard than we had before in terms of what's accessible," said Amy Capolupo, the director of UM's disability services.

This comes after the student group, ADSUM filed a complaint on behalf of several students in May 2012 claiming the university was discriminating against students with disabilities.

"It was an ongoing pattern. They weren't able to access material, or students would go to class and be watching a video and couldn't hear it," said Courtney Damron with ADSUM.

Damron filed the complaint with the DOE's Office of Civil Rights on behalf of students who were having these issues in their classes.

"It's been an issue since technology has become a fundamental part of education," Damron said.

The complaint said UM used online tools like web pages, library databases, and a course-registration site, making it difficult for students with visual, hearing, or some learning disabilities to complete their courses.

 Capolupo said she was not surprised when the complaint was filed.

"The things they filed the complaint on aren't solely specific to the University of Montana, so those students were not only doing this for here, but for students to come, and students at other universities," Capolupo said.

As part of UM's agreement, the university will not only use new policies, but it will train employees on how to provide accessible documents and course materials for students with disabilities. Damron said she hopes this will be an example for all universities and establishments to follow.

"It really sets out a lot of priorities. It's being touted as one of agreements to look at for other institutions experiencing similar issues," Damron said.

You can take a look at the university's resolution agreement by finding this story online.

This is not the first battle ADSUM has fought to make campus education more accessible for students with disabilities. When the group formed in 1988, the university had no wheelchair ramps or elevators in place. The group fought for years to get the proper building procedures in place to accommodate students with disabilities.

Members of the group say the accessibility issue resurfaced, when technology was being used more often in courses.  When it started becoming a larger problem, the group filed its complaint against UM in May of 2012.

 

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