I have student loans to pay back from law school. Recently, my loans were, without my knowledge, transferred to a new provider. When I went to create an account with the new provider, I discovered their website has a major accessibility issue. During the account creation process, you must elect an image as a part of their security features. There was no way for me to tell what the different images showed or for me to select an image. Unable to select an image, I was unable to create an account. Unable to create an account, I can’t make payments toward my loan.
After calling the provider and being told they would look into it, I called the Office of Civil Rights in my local office of the Department of Education. Someone from the Department of Education called me back and acknowledged the loan provider is required to provide an accessible website since it’s a contractor of the federal government. Amazingly, though, the Department of Education wasn’t exactly sure which office is supposed to help me address the fact that the Department of Education contracted with a company that doesn’t provide an accessible website.
So, they gave me the number for the Department of Justice’s Americans With Disabilities Act technical assistance number and told me they should be able to transfer me to the agency who could help me.
At this point, I have a loan that’s accruing interest daily that I can’t make payments toward. The agency charged with overseeing my loan isn’t sure who can help me enforce the fact that they contracted with an inaccessible provider. The Department of Justice was closed when I called. We will see what happens tomorrow.
I shared this, even though I don’t usually share things like this, because I want people to see what life is too often like for people with disabilities. My blindness isn’t the reason I’m having this problem. Technology isn’t the reason I’m having this problem. The law is actually on my side.
I’m having this problem because far too often the Americans With Disabilities Act is ignored. The federal government rarely does much to enforce it. Companies are almost never held accountable for violating it. Instead of creating my account and making a payment–I spent a couple of hours trying to figure out which government agency would enforce the law the government allowed to be violated.