Updated: May 19, 2020
As schools across the nation shutter in response to coronavirus, federal officials are giving educators additional insight on how to handle the needs of students with disabilities.
The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights issued a webinar and fact sheet this week for education leaders aimed at ensuring that students’ civil rights are upheld while schools are closed due to COVID-19. The webinar reminds school officials that distance learning must be accessible unless “equally effective alternate access is provided.”
Online learning tools should be compatible with any assistive technology that students use and schools must regularly test their online offerings for accessibility, the Education Department said. “OCR’s accessibility webinar is intended to remind school leaders at the elementary, secondary and postsecondary levels of their legal obligations to ensure that all students, including students with disabilities, can access online and virtual learning programs,” said Kenneth L. Marcus, the Education Department’s assistant secretary for civil rights. “Students with disabilities must have access to educational technology utilized by schools, and OCR will continue to work to ensure that no student is excluded from utilizing these important tools.”
If a student with a disability is absent from school for an extended period because of coronavirus, but the school remains open, the student has a right to continue to receive a free appropriate p