FYI. 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 ----- Jeff Saulich/APD/DCF To 07/21/2011 10:09 Charles Ball/APD/DCF@DCF, John AM Cook/APD/DCF@DCF, Mike Palecki/APD/DCF@DCF cc Melanie Etters/APD/DCF@DCF, Lloyd Harger/APD/DCF@DCF, David Howell/APD/DCF@DCF, Stacia Woolverton/APD/DCF@DCF Subject News Item -- FSU lawsuit Good morning, I thought you would be interested in this update on the FSU lawsuit. ----Jeff Students sue FSU for failing to provide adequate services to visually impaired 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 superior. "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."