U.S. Department of Education Agrees to Make Financial Aid Websites Accessible to Blind Borrowers


The U.S. Department of Education reached an important settlement this week that will require information regarding student loans to be made more accessible to students that are blind. Companies that are tasked with collecting student loan payments are also required to abide by these new standards.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, all websites, forms and related documents that are tied into the process of applying for and paying for student loans will be provided in an applicable form. Information will be provided to blind students in Braille while websites will adhere to predetermined web accessibility guidelines.

A student complaint that was originally filed in 2011 spurred the department to sign the agreement. The complaint that was issued is from a student borrower who was denied by a loan officer his request for his loan statement to be presented to him in Braille. The student was also denied assistance over the phone when he requested it to fill out a form.

After the complaint was received the student was granted the needed accommodations, but the Education Department did not make any moves to make changes that would accommodate visually impaired students in the future. The lack of action prompted the National Federation of the Blind to get involved and push the department to meet the federal disability law.

The settlement that was reached this week fixes many of the issues addressed by the National Federation of the Blind and allows all parties to avoid litigation.  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 services can result in serious financial consequences.” He goes on to say “Timely and independent access to student loan websites, loans and documents is therefore imperative, not a matter of mere convenience.”

There doesn’t seem to be any impact on colleges and universities other than allowing all of their students, disabled or not, to have the same tools as the rest. The changes will allow student advocates to aid those that are in need without having to endure lengthy waits or have services denied.

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