In the 2019-2020 academic year, the University has faced numerous changes and exciting new prospects. F. King Alexander left us to run Oregon State University, the College of Humanities and Social Sciences appointed a new dean, the football team won the National Championship and LSU is finally on its way to becoming ADA-compliant.
The Office for Civil Rights informed the University of its noncompliance with federal accessibility laws and established August 2019 as the deadline for the University to ensure all online and classroom content is ADA-compliant.
Though the deadline has since passed, the period of transition for faculty, staff and students hasn’t.
In order to be ADA-compliant, online content, including but not limited to electronic documents, emails and official social media channels produced by the University, must be accessible for all users, must work with assistive technologies and must be in compliance for all classes.
Of course, this means the syllabi, handouts and PowerPoints posted to Moodle by professors must be checked for accessibility before being published. Syllabus week earlier this semester seemed to be one endless cycle of frustration and delays as professors and students alike complained about the “new” requirements.
While there's certainly a learning curve for every new procedure, and it does takes time to settle into an efficient routine, the importance and magnitude of accessibility on campus far outweighs any short-term inconveniences.
The University is already behind the curve with ADA-compliance and the resistance and negative reception of the recent updates only further tarnishes our reputation.
The situation is definitely frustrating for those attempting to navigate the changes without proper training or explanation, but that is nothing compared to the frustration of not being able to receive the same education as your peers because of an institution’s noncompliance with federal mandates.
The transition hasn’t been the smoothest for some, but the progress being made is encouraging. The University is taking steps not only to prevent future lawsuits and legal issues, but also more importantly to create a more welcoming and open atmosphere for students from all backgrounds.
Students should embrace the change and educate themselves about it. ADA-compliance isn’t limited to electronic content but also to physical accessibility of buildings and resources located on campus.
While the University has met these requirements on the newer buildings, many of the old buildings on campus fail to meet the proper criteria. Some of the buildings around the quad, like Stubbs Hall, don’t have elevators providing access to the second and third floors.
Regardless of whether these buildings pose a potential legal threat to the University, steps should be taken to ensure accessibility for all students. After all, as an academic institution, the University’s priority should always be the student body.
Marie Plunkett is a 20-year-old classical studies junior from New Orleans.