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February 12, 2015 • joedolson

Advocates for the deaf on 2/12/2015 filed federal lawsuits against Harvard and M.I.T., saying both universities violated anti-discrimination laws by failing to provide closed captioning in their online lectures, courses, podcasts andother educational materials.

“Much of Harvard’s online content is either not captioned or is inaccurately or unintelligibly captioned, making itinaccessible for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing,” the complaint said, echoing language used in the M.I.T.complaint. “Just as buildings without ramps bar people who use wheelchairs, online content without captionsexcludes individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing.”

Jeff Neal, a spokesman for Harvard, said that while he could not comment on the litigation, Harvard expected theJustice Department to propose rules this year “to provide much-needed guidance in this area,” and that the universitywould follow whatever rules were adopted.

A spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said the university was committed to making itsmaterials accessible to its students and online learners who are hearing-impaired, and included captioning in all newcourse videos and its most popular online courses.

This trending topic will again be explored with DOJ further at the Association’s Spring 2015 conference in Tampa.

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