OXFORD, Ohio – A federal lawsuit filed by a blind Miami University student accuses the university of using technology that presents a barrier to her education.
Junior Aleeha Dudley of New Paris says course materials are inaccessible to her text-to-speech software and she hasn’t received material in Braille or other tactile forms she can use without help to offset her lack of sight. The lawsuit, filed last week, says Miami failed to provide equal access in violation of federal law.
Dudley, who wants to go veterinary school, said her hopes of being admitted to a graduate program have been jeopardized, if not destroyed, because of lackluster grades she blames on barriers to completing coursework. She compared the school’s conduct to a public place with unneeded entrance steps and no ramp.
Dudley also said touch-screen systems used at the southwest Ohio university prevent her from ordering food or even doing laundry without help.
The university denied Dudley’s allegations, spokeswoman Claire Wagner said in a statement.
According to the Dayton Daily News, Dudley wants Miami to expunge her grades, pay her tuition and costs to repeat three academic years, pay her legal fees, pay other damages and provide relief determined by the court. The lawsuit also seeks an injunction ordering Miami to stop violating disability laws.
I am frustrated, Dudley said. But the biggest of my goals is that I really want to help somebody who comes behind me as a blind student pursuing science. Maybe not only at Miami, but at other universities so that they don’t have these same frustrations, and they’re not nearly as exhausted and frustrated as I am about this.
The National Federation of the Blind and Disability Rights Ohio are helping her legal challenge. Advocates say blind students have faced similar barriers in colleges elsewhere.
Miami is not alone in this, said attorney Kerstin Sjoberg-Witt, of Disability Rights Ohio. It’s a very common problem in higher education.
Miami University said it tries to accommodate specific needs of the disabled and students can have an interactive dialogue or process with the Office of Disability Resources to take care of issues. It said the office is serving some 335 students and 65 faculty and staff members and is committed to equal access.
Dudley said she plans to continue pursuing her studies at Miami and to graduate from there.