Bradley Elmendorf chose to attend Duke University because the disability services staff assured him that Duke had experience accommodating students with dyslexia. The staff were confident about their ability to provide him with alternative formats of all of his reading assignments.
But once he arrived on campus, Bradley did not receive the accommodations he required. He had to drop, withdraw from, and take incompletes in many of his courses. When he filed a complaint with Duke’s internal Office of Institutional Equity, the Divinity School told him he would lose his scholarship if he did not withdraw his grievance. Ultimately, Bradley had to change degree programs in order to get the accommodations he needed. He graduated with a Master of Arts in Christian Studies in 2014.
Disability Rights NC filed a lawsuit against Duke University for discriminating against Bradley, and we came to a settlement agreement. Under the settlement, Duke agreed to provide additional training to its disability services staff and liaisons to enhance the effectiveness of student accommodations. The university also agreed to forge a connection between the disability services office and IT staff to ensure that technical issues related to the provision of accommodations are resolved quickly. Finally, Duke promised to publicize the student ombudsman’s contact information on the accessibility services website. Though not a component of the settlement, Duke also invested in an online program called SensusAccess that rapidly converts inaccessible reading material to an accessible.
Despite all the obstacles Duke placed in his way, Bradley never wavered in his belief in himself and his ability to obtain academic and professional success when properly accommodated for his disability. We congratulate him on this hard-won victory, and look forward to his future accomplishments and contributions to the disability community.