GW under federal investigation for possible disability discrimination

Media Credit: Olivia Anderson | Photo Editor

The Department of Education launched an investigation after a complaint was filed accusing the University of disability discrimination based on a lack of accessibility.

Updated: Jan. 23, 2018 at 5:06 p.m.

The University has been under federal investigation for alleged disability discrimination for the last several months.

The Department of Education launched an inquiry April 27 after a complaint was filed accusing the University of disability discrimination based on a lack of accessibility. The investigation became public last week after the education department began releasing information about race, age and disability discrimination probes.

The department previously publicly identified universities facing inquiries for sex-based discrimination only upon request. The details of the complaint have not yet been released.

University spokeswoman Lindsay Hamilton said the University received a notice when an individual filed a discrimination complaint against GW with the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. She said officials are cooperating with the investigation.

Hamilton sent an additional statement Tuesday stating that the complaint is about “website accessibility.” She said the University has formed a task force to examine the issue.

“The University is committed to providing an inclusive and accessible environment and is working cooperatively with the Office for Civil Rights in this matter,” she said in an email.

An accessibility complaint is filed by someone who experienced discrimination on the basis of their disability, “including those currently without an impairment that substantially limits a major life activity, but who have a record of or are regarded as having a disability,” according to the Department of Education’s website.

The University has come under scrutiny for the accessibility of its campuses. Students with disabilities have said some campus buildings lack proper accommodations, like elevators, making them difficult to navigate.

GW has faced lawsuits for disability discrimination in recent years. Last year, a former GW plumber sued the University after he alleged that he was wrongfully terminated after his supervisors discriminated against him based on his disability. In 2016, an alumnus filed suit against GW, claiming that he didn’t receive the same educational opportunities as other students because of his disability.

Last year, the number of students supported by Disability Support Services hit a record high with more than 1,100 students registered. Officials said at the time that they were conducting a review of DSS to determine if it had the resources needed to support that student population, but haven’t released any updates on the review since.

Of GW’s 18 peer schools, 12 are currently also under investigation for disability discrimination. More than 2,000 elementary, secondary and post-secondary schools face disability investigations as of Jan. 12.

The University is also currently under Department of Education investigation for its alleged mishandling of a Title IX case. The probe, which launched after a student accused officials of retaliation and sex-based discrimination following an incident of sexual assault, began Aug 8.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.