Agreement Will Make Student Loan Information Accessible
Baltimore, Maryland (October 8, 2014): The National Federation of the Blind, the nation’s leading advocate for equal access by the blind to information and technology, and three individuals have reached an agreement with the U.S. Department of Education that will make student loan information accessible to blind Americans.
The agreement commits the Department of Education and the student loan servicers with which it contracts to make websites, forms, and documents related to the department’s Direct Loan program equally accessible to blind applicants and borrowers.
The requirements include providing documents in alternative formats such as Braille and large print and allowing blind people to fill out and electronically sign and submit accessible versions of student loan applications and forms. People who are blind use computers, smartphones, and tablets equipped with special software that allows the contents of websites and documents to be read aloud or displayed in Braille on a connected Braille device. When websites or documents are not properly coded, however, they cannot be accessed with the technology used by blind people.
Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: “It goes without saying that the inability of blind people to acquire timely information about their student loans and interact with their loan servicers can result in serious financial consequences. Timely and independent access to student loan websites, forms, and documents is therefore imperative, not a matter of mere convenience. We are delighted that the Department of Education has agreed to work with us to achieve equal access to its student loan program.”
The complainants were represented in this matter by Arlene B. Mayerson and Larisa Cummings of the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (DREDF) and Daniel F. Goldstein and Jessica P. Weber of the Baltimore firm Brown, Goldstein & Levy, LLP.
DREDF Attorney Larisa Cummings said, "Technology’s promise for people with disabilities must include a respect for their privacy, and support — not undermine — their financially responsible behavior. This settlement is a breakthrough for web access, especially independent access to required forms that people will be able to complete and submit electronically."
Larisa Cummings, DREDF
(510) 644-2555 ext 5245
Director of Public Relations
National Federation of the Blind
(410) 659-9314, extension 2330
(410) 262-1281 (Cell)