Claim: Google Apps for Education inaccessible to blind students

A Google official pledged to make its applications more accessible to blind students.

An advocacy group has filed a complaint with the federal government accusing New York University (NYU) and Northwestern University of discriminating against the blind by adopting Google’s eMail program.

The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) said March 15 that Gmail and other Google applications used by the schools aren’t fully functional with text-to-speech technology, and their adoption violates the Americans with Disabilities act.

The Baltimore-based group is asking that the Justice Department investigate. It also wants colleges to halt adoption of such software until it’s accessible to everyone.

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Both schools recently adopted Google Apps for Education for campus eMail and other services.

The National Federation of the Blind says other software options available are accessible to blind students. But the group says more than half of U.S. colleges that are outsourcing their eMail are choosing Google programs.

“Given the many accessible options available, there is no good reason that these universities should choose a suite of applications, including critical eMail services, that is inaccessible to blind students,” said Marc Maurer, NFB’s president. “[The NFB] will not tolerate this unconscionable discrimination against blind students and faculty and callous indifference to the right of blind students to receive an equal education.”

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