[tabi] Fw: News Item -- FSU lawsuit

  • From: Stacia Woolverton <Stacia_Woolverton@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: TABI@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Thu, 21 Jul 2011 11:31:11 -0400


Stacia Woolverton
Administrative Assistant
Agency for Persons with Disabilities
4030 Esplanade Way, Suite 260
Tallahassee, Florida 32399
Phone: (850) 414-0015
Fax: (850) 414-8908
Email: Stacia_Woolverton@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

----- Forwarded by Stacia Woolverton/APD/DCF on 07/21/2011 11:30 AM -----
             07/21/2011 10:09          Charles Ball/APD/DCF@DCF, John      
             AM                        Cook/APD/DCF@DCF, Mike              
                                       Melanie Etters/APD/DCF@DCF, Lloyd   
                                       Harger/APD/DCF@DCF, David           
                                       Howell/APD/DCF@DCF, Stacia          
                                       News Item -- FSU lawsuit            

Good morning,

I thought you would be interested in this update on the FSU lawsuit.


Students sue FSU for failing to provide adequate services to visually
3:58 PM, Jul. 20, 201 Tallahassee Democrat

Chad Squiteri
Staff Writer

That chirping noise you hear when you cross the street might not be
beneficial to most students, but to the visually impaired it is a lifeline.
Students who have difficulty seeing live their lives interpreting the
sounds around them.

Two Florida State students have taken action to fix a situation they feel
to be discriminatory in regard to their quality of education. Both
Christopher Toth and Jamie Principato have filed a lawsuit against Florida
State University in federal court claiming the university violated a law
that requires the university to offer adequate support for students with
disabilities in order to provide equal opportunities for all students.

The students claim that the mathematics department at FSU does not
adequately provide services for blind students. Christopher Toth and Jamie
Principato—both blind—claim that the computer based system that the
mathematics department uses, eGrade, does not allow for blind students to
be able to learn as effectively as other students.

"eGrade is a great idea, but it is not accessible to blind students at
all," said Principato. "We gave the university advice as to how to convert
it so it could be accessed by blind students but no one would work with us.
It would have been a quick fix."

Many blind students use software called screen readers that allow students
to identify the information on the computer screen through a text-to-speech
feature. Some screen readers use a Braille output device, which can
translate the text on the monitor into Braille.

Christopher Toth first discovered that the software was not compatible with
the screen readers in 2008. The mathematics department uses the software
for homework assignments and quizzes.

"Chris first notified the university of the problem in 2008 and went
through a long chain of people until he talked to the dean of undergrad
studies," Principato said "Chris talked to the tech staff but no one was
willing to work with him so he had to drop the math class. I came to FSU in
2009 and decided to try to take the math class together with Chris thinking
that would help. We walked into the classroom the first day and they said
it wouldn't be any different and didn't know why we were trying again."

The eGrade software is not the only accommodation the students are suing
over.The lawsuit also alleges that the university fails to meet several
requirements to provide accommodations for blind students.

The students say the university failed to provide textbooks in Braille,
failed to provide blind-friendly clickers in class and even that the
university participated in retaliatory acts when the students complained
about the alleged violations.

The students are being represented by Daniel Goldstein-a lawyer who works
closely with the National Federation of the Blind; the organization is
assisting the students with the case. The President of the federation-Marc
Maurer, Ph.D.-said, via press release, that discrimination toward blind
students is all too common.

"This case, however, involves the repeated, deliberate, and intentional
disregard of the rights of these two students, whose academic records have
now suffered irreparable damage and who have suffered lost opportunities,
emotional distress, embarrassment, humiliation, and retaliation by
university officials," said Maurer. "The National Federation of the Blind
will not stand for this outrageous treatment of blind students and we will
continue to support this lawsuit as fully as necessary in order to ensure
that these young people are compensated for the egregious conduct of
faculty and staff in FSU's Department of Mathematics."

The Students Disability Research Center at FSU, whose mission statement in
part states they will "collaborate with and empower students to create
accessible and inclusive environment," has not yet responded to a request
to comment on the lawsuit.

Principato wants people to know they want to be treated as equal, not

"The point I would like to get across is that we are not asking for special
treatment; we are not asking to not take math or to make the courses
easier," said Principato. "What we want is the same responsibility as other
students along with the same opportunity. I am proud to be a Nole, but I
want to be allowed to compete on an even playing field."

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