Created on Tuesday, 14 January 2014 Written by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
OXFORD, Ohio (AP) — A federal lawsuit filed by a blind Miami University student accuses the school 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 that 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 touchscreen systems used at the southwest Ohio school prevent her from ordering food or even doing laundry without help.
According to The Dayton Daily News (http://bit.ly/1gEywH8 ), Dudley wants Miami to expunge her grades, pay her tuition and costs to repeat three school years, pay her legal fees, and pay other damages and provide relief determined by the court. The lawsuit also wants 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 says 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. The school said the office is currently serving some 335 students and 65 faculty and staff members, and is committed to equal access.
"Because this case involves a current student, Miami University will not comment on the complaint other than to deny the allegations," school spokeswoman Claire Wagner said in a statement.
Dudley said she plans to continue pursuing her studies at Miami, and to graduate from there.