UC Berkeley Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate Education Cathy Koshland issued this statement today:
UC Berkeley has long been committed to ensuring equal access to students, faculty and staff with disabilities. Despite the absence of clear regulatory guidance, we have attempted to maximize the accessibility of free, online content that we have made available to the public. Nevertheless, the Department of Justice has recently asserted that the University is in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act because, in its view, not all of the free course and lecture content UC Berkeley makes available on certain online platforms is fully accessible to individuals with hearing, visual or manual disabilities.
The department’s findings do not implicate the accessibility of educational opportunities provided to our enrolled students.
In response, the university has moved swiftly to engage our campus experts to evaluate the best course of action. We look forward to continued dialog with the Department of Justice regarding the requirements of the ADA and options for compliance. Yet we do so with the realization that, due to our current financial constraints, we might not be able to continue to provide free public content under the conditions laid out by the Department of Justice to the extent we have in the past.
In many cases the requirements proposed by the department would require the university to implement extremely expensive measures to continue to make these resources available to the public for free. We believe that in a time of substantial budget deficits and shrinking state financial support, our first obligation is to use our limited resources to support our enrolled students. Therefore, we must strongly consider the unenviable option of whether to remove content from public access.
Please know that we fully intend to exhaust every available option to retain or restore free public availability of online content. It is our hope that we will find an appropriate resolution with the Department of Justice that allows us to serve the extended seeing- and hearing-impaired community and continue to provide free online content.
View the Department of Justice letter.