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Disability Claims Make Up Half of the Record Number of Complaints to the Education Dept’s OCR

The Office of Civil Rights of the Department of Education received a record number of complaints in 2022 about discrimination in K-12 and higher education — and it appears that roughly half of those were about alleged disabilities discrimination.

Inside Higher Ed reported in February that the nearly 19,000 complaints filed in the year ending September 30, 2002, topping the OCR’s previous record, set in 2016, by 12.5%. The publication attributes the overall upsurge in complaints to increases in funding and transparency by the Biden Administration, leading to an increased trust in those alleging the complaints.

But why the increase in disabilities claims in particular? Disabilities claims to the OCR can range from denial of access to programs and services to denials of accommodation requests. Citing Jamie Axelrod, the past president of the Association on Higher Education and Disability, IHE concludes that “for many students with disabilities, the pandemic, disruptions in classes and online education highlighted and worsened inequities in their access to higher education.” Axelrod pointed to the increased complexity of accommodation requests, especially as students’ and schools’ dependency on technology has grown.

Judging from recent events in EdTech and the education sector, the fading of the pandemic is unlikely to abate these disability-related DEI issues. Both budgets and hybrid arrangements and the glut of investment going to anything labeled as “AI,” mean the dependency on tech is here to stay. Meanwhile, there is an increase in both the incidence and the awareness of the learning challenges posed by attention deficits, executive function disorders, autism spectrum disorders, and other forms of neurodivergence.

Yet, there is still not even universal adherence to basic standards of accessibility in websites and cloud-based tools – and those standards largely focus only on vision and hearing impairments. Fewer still are the platforms (or e-learning courses) that follow the principles of “universal design,” and even those principles only go so far. This, no doubt, bleeds into common practices that do not do their part to practice supporting neurodiversity in the workplace

Supporting Neurodiversity in the Workplace

These are not just problems for higher ed. Today’s student body is tomorrow’s workforce. For compliance programs and professionals, addressing these issues in part involves reassessing and adapting policies, and redoubling efforts to properly handle accommodation requests. Part comes down to continuous improvement in our DEI “blocking and tackling.” But improvement will also require us to broaden our perception and understanding of neurodiversity. LeadGood Education is committed to spending more time and effort on this welcomed challenge and aims to ensure your compliance team, HR team, and executive leadership employ strategies that effectively support and engage neurodivergent employees for the benefit of the entire organization. 

Visit our homepage to download our free guide to see if your organization could do better at including and connecting with neurodivergent workers. Then, contact us to learn how you and your team can effectively include, support, and engage your entire team with neuROInclusion™.

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