Dear UC Berkeley,

On September 13, 2016, the University of California, Berkeley published a response to the Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation findings regarding the accessibility of their publicly available, free online content. As a hard of hearing individual, California resident, proud University of California alumnae, and long-time public school educator, I am deeply saddened, frustrated, and sickened by their response.

The full 10 page DOJ report is available online. Here is my TL:DR version. A complaint was filed by the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) and two Deaf individuals against UC Berkeley alleging that their free, publicly available online content is not accessible to Deaf and hard of hearing individuals. Following an investigation, the DOJ found that "significant portions" of the free, publicly available online content, housed on EdX, YouTube, iTunesU "are not accessible to people with hearing, vision, and manual disabilities."

Here are a few Findings of Fact from the report related to captions.
  • Only 75 videos of the 543 videos identified on the YouTube channel had manually created captions. Most videos contained auto-captions which were found "inaccurate and incomplete, making the content inaccessible to individuals with hearing disabilities." 
  • Of the 99 lectures reviewed as part of the 27 iTunesU courses, "none of the videos contained captions."

The remedial measures section of the report outlines actions to respond to the violations and bring the content into compliance with WCAG 2.0 Accessibility guidelines.

How did the University respond?
The university explains that "due to our current financial constraints, we might not be able to continue to provide free public content under the conditions laid out by the Department of Justice to the extent we have in the past." They further describe how they must "strongly consider the unenviable option of whether to remove content from public access." 

My response.
It sounds like excuses to me. How does a public institutions recently rated the #1 Public University by US News & World Report, have branded resources where 0% of reviewed iTunesU content and only 13.8% of reviewed YouTube content is accessible? I could forgive these statistics as being unaware or uninformed. But I believe what is happening here is much worse. By suggesting the removal of public access as a possible solution due to financial constraints and shrinking budget is sickening and I do not believe aligned with their mission "to serve society as a center of higher learning, providing long-term societal benefits through transmitting advanced knowledge, discovering new knowledge, and functioning as an active working repository of organized knowledge. " 

UC Berkeley made a choice by not initially captioning their content. They continue to make a choice by implying that the findings of this investigations will result in restricting available content. 

I work in California's public schools and have experienced shrinking budgets which I have never used as an excuse to not do the right thing. I produce content that may never be utilized by another Deaf or hard of hearing individual, yet I caption my content. Why? It's a choice. It's the right thing to do. I am an educator. As an educator, I don't self select my students. I must design and create content with accessibility in mind. If accessibility is part of the creation process, I honor and value all learners. I believe Berkeley could do the same.

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