Judge Denies Motion to Dismiss Web Accessibility Lawsuit Against Harvard & MIT

February 23, 2016 BY EMILY GRIFFIN
Updated: December 6, 2021

On February 9, 2016, Magistrate Judge Katherine A. Robertson issued a report recommending the District Judge of Massachusetts deny Harvard and MIT’s motion to dismiss the web accessibility lawsuit brought against them by the NAD.

One year ago, the National Association for the Deaf (NAD) filed suit against Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology for failing to provide adequate closed captioning for online educational video.

The plaintiff argued that the lack of quality, comprehensive video captioning for online courses and MOOCs was a violation of the ADA and of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

Harvard and MIT both requested a Motion to Stay or Dismiss the cases on the grounds that current accessibility law doesn’t explicitly require universities to caption video on the web.

In June, the US Department of Justice weighed in on the issue in a statement of interest to the court. The USDOJ argued in favor of the NAD and urged the judge to deny the Motion to Stay of Dismiss. Judge Robertson agreed.

That means that, barring an objection from the District Judge, the lawsuit will proceed without delay.

This case is being watched closely by universities, colleges, and eLearning companies, as it would set a precedent for broader application of closed captioning requirements in education — and possibly other industries as well.

For an excellent summary of the report by a legal expert, read “Harvard and MIT: A Decision Is Here! (Sort Of)”.

Read the full judge’s report here.

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