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Penn State accused of discrimination

The nation’s largest group for blind people filed a federal complaint against Penn State University claiming it discriminates against blind students and teachers.

“The number and scope of the accessibility problems at Penn State demonstrate the institution’s blatant — and unlawful — lack of regard for the equal education of its blind students and failure to accommodate its blind faculty members and employees,” said Marc Maurer, president of the National Federation of the Blind, in a statement released Friday.

The federation is a Baltimore-based group with 50,000 members.

“Issues of equity and accessibility are really important, and we take them seriously,” Penn State spokesman Geoffrey Rushton responded. “Since we haven’t received the details of the claim yet, we don’t have anything to offer on it.”

In its complaint with the U.S. Department of Education, the federation cited accessibility problems with Penn State’s library catalog, departmental websites, course management system and classroom technology.

The federation further complained that PNC Bank has a website that is nearly inaccessible to the blind. Penn State has a contract with the bank that allows students to use their identification cards as debit cards.

“There is simply no excuse for blind students and faculty to be denied the same access to information and technology as sighted students,” Maurer said. “Sadly, this cavalier attitude toward accessibility is found not only at Penn State, but at many of our nation’s colleges and universities.”


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