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Blind student sues Miami University over alleged discrimination

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OXFORD, Ohio – A blind student is suing Miami University over claims the school discriminated against her because of her disability.

Aleeha Dudley, who is pursuing a degree in zoology, alleges Miami University deliberately failed to make “necessary modifications” so she could complete her coursework.

"My dream of becoming a veterinarian has turned into a nightmare,” Dudley said. “I am pursuing this case not only for myself, but so that other blind students who matriculate at Miami University will not experience the same frustration, exhaustion and sadness that I feel today."

According to the suit, the university failed to provide textbooks and course materials in accessible formats, including Braille.

Dudley also claims Miami did not provide "proper tactile graphics to represent visual components of course materials," and purchased and deployed inaccessible course management and assignment software.

“If these modifications had been made, Ms. Dudley would have been able to use text-to-speech software and a refreshable Braille display to obtain the information she needed to succeed in her courses,” the lawsuit reads.

In the suit, Dudley alleges her grades have suffered and she is behind in her degree requirements because “Miami University's failure to make modifications that it promised to make and that are required by federal law.”

But former Miami student Heather Komnenovich said that cannot be the case.

Komnenovich, a 2005 graduate, said she also struggles with multiple disabilities and believes the faculty at Miami "bent over backwards" to help her succeed.

"(The director of the Office of Disability Resources) has done everything in his power to help me out so I didn't flunk my studies, and I had some issues," Komnenovich said. "He went out on a limb so I could graduate. I know he would make sure Aleeha was getting the same treatment."

The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) is assisting Dudley in her lawsuit. NFB President Dr. Marc Maurer said Dudley is one of many blind students who experience “frustrating and unnecessary barriers to a full and equal education.”

“Technology, if properly designed and implemented, can make it possible for students like Dudley to experience an equal education…but Miami University has ignored its legal and moral obligations and failed to procure accessible technology,” Maurer said. “The National Federation of the Blind cannot and will not tolerate such discrimination."

Copyright 2014 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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