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Education Department offers help in making websites more accessible


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By Benjamin Wermund

The Education Department is launching a new effort to help schools make sure their websites are accessible to students with disabilities.

The move comes after civil rights investigators tossed out hundreds of complaints about schools with inaccessible websites. The department also rewrote months-old agreements requiring some schools to update their sites.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced today that the Office for Civil Rights will offer webinars over the next several weeks for schools, districts, state education agencies, libraries, colleges and universities.

"As more educational opportunities are delivered online, we need to ensure those programs, services and activities are accessible to everyone," DeVos said. "OCR's technical assistance will help us continue to forge important partnerships with schools for the benefit of students and parents with disabilities."

Federal civil rights investigators have tossed out hundreds of complaints under a new Trump administration rule directing them to dismiss bulk complaints — a directive the administration says is aimed at more efficiently dealing with so-called mass filers, who file the same type of complaint against many schools.

Department officials have also been renegotiating dozens of agreements with schools and districts that resulted from those types of complaints. In those cases, investigators had already found the schools were potentially violating federal anti-discrimination laws because the districts had websites that were inaccessible to students with disabilities.

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