Ben Rosenthal doesn’t believe in letting anything stop him, not even his eyes.
“I can see about a foot, but I can really only focus in about 2 inches from my eyeballs,” Rosenthal said. His parents learned early on he not only has a visual impairment.
“They found out I had a visual processing disorder,” he said. “It’s a lot similar to dyslexia.” He created a document and modified a pair of glasses to help show others what he sees.
“I’ll mix up letters, things that look similar,” he said. “Bs become Ds. 8s become Bs … it becomes really tricky to read.”
Still, he managed to work around that and graduated at the top of his high school class. In 2016, Rosenthal transferred to Florida International University, after he said he was reassured the university could provide accommodations for him under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“They showed me, we can get your books in a PDF format for you,” he said he was told. “We can sit you at the front of the room, get you extra time, things like that.”
But when the university started using a new online platform for classes, Rosenthal said he started having difficulty.
“[[The site]] didn’t have a lot of borders, it had a lack of contrasts and because of my visual processing disorder it was very hard to navigate,” he said. “Everything kind of bleeds together.”
Rosenthal said he shared his concerns with a counselor at the school.
“When I saw I wasn’t getting anywhere in the university level, I reached out to you guys,” he said.
A spokesperson for FIU sent NBC 6 a statement, in part, the online platform “…is fully compliant with the ADA thus allowing all of our students the opportunity to equally participate in the learning process.”
Rosenthal had also filed a discrimination complaint with the Department of Education. FIU said they had complied with both ADA requirements and the terms of the agreement reached as a result of his complaint. They added: “Any subsequent demands that are beyond the requirements … will need to be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.”
Rosenthal said he was still having trouble with accessibility.
“It’s not as simple as sit me in front of the room or build a ramp to the door, but if the new technology is not ready and we can’t find a way to make it work, just put me in another in-person class, offer them because now they’re not really offering as many,” Rosenthal said.
He told NBC 6 Responds he re-filed his complaint with the Department of Education a few months ago and was still waiting to hear back.
To file a discrimination complaint, visit the US Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights Website here.