Many colleges find Google’s free e-mail and word-processing services irresistible.
Blind professors and students find them to be something else: inaccessible.
That’s the accusation of a civil-rights complaint filed today against New York University and Northwestern, two institutions that recently adopted the suite of free software services known as Google Apps for Education. The National Federation of the Blind wants the Justice Department to investigate both universities for discriminatory behavior that allegedly violates the Americans With Disabilities Act.
In a series of online videos, the advocacy group lays out a range of problems that occur when blind users access Google’s products with assistive software that reads Web pages aloud. For example, Gmail lacks clear labels to alert users to the type of information that they should put in each text field, such as the message’s subject or the recipient’s e-mail address, says Christopher Danielsen, a spokesman for the blind federation.