I have known for some time that there were some accessibility issues with the wildly popular free services available through Google. I thought it was just a matter of time before Google got around to fixing it. Perhaps they should drop everything and do that right now.
Over the past few years increasing number of universities – including the University of Maine – and more recently an increasing number of public school systems have adopted Google Apps for Education and G-mail as their mail system. On the Google Apps for Education home page, they claim “more than 10 million students” use the service.
But there might be a problem.
Last week, amid the news surrounding various world crises, the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) posted a press release indicating that they had “requested that the United States Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, investigate civil rights violations committed by” two major universities for using Google Apps for Education. They state that this is “because the schools have adopted technology that is not accessible to the blind.” A similar request for investigation has been filed against four Oregon public school districts that are using Google Apps.
The press release cites the fact that “United States Department of Justice and the United States Department of Education have specifically warned all university presidents against the adoption of inaccessible technology.”
NFB has included links to videos they prepared showing the inaccessibility features of the Google Apps in question.
It should be noted that there are probably other mail systems and applications used in schools and universities that are not accessible to people with disabilities, but now that Google Apps for Education have been called on the carpet, it would be pretty hard to defend their use now. That is unless Google puts their tremendous technical skills and considerable wealth into fixing the Apps immediately.