On a recent Friday at around 1pm, I happened to walk into an
office on my campus where a student, who was in a class I taught
a couple of years ago, is employed as a work-study to answer the
phone and greet folks who walk in. He was been bent low over a
take-out tray of food, inhaling his lunch, when I appeared.
With wide eyes, in breaths between bites of food, he told me his
lunch was just so good... but that was probably
because he had been so hungry. I blithely ask him why, thinking
he might have been fasting for some reason, or doing some sort of
special athletic training (as he sometimes does) — we're
very friendly, and it didn't occur to me that it might be an
He told me no, he was so hungry because he hadn't eaten since the
previous day's breakfast ... because he couldn't afford to buy
anything to eat. He didn't seem embarrassed about it, but
merely told me with a very matter-of-fact tone.
I'm not making a legal argument [I repeat]. But I do think
that the normative argument above suggests that
It is within the ethical penumbra of the ADA to say that public
[and most private] institutions higher education must remove
any economic barrier so long as that barrier prevents even a
single student from succeeding in their education.
Of course, usually the greatest economic barrier students face is
tuition. But I have very little agency or even voice in setting
tuition at my institution (or others).
Which is in fact one of the things I like the most about OER:
I do have a great deal of agency when it comes to the
resources required for the classes I teach. What I take the above
analysis to imply, then, is
Faculty must choose zero-cost OER rather than even low-cost
closed resources, or else must be ready to provide effective,
zero-cost work-arounds which enable every single student,
including those with significant economic difficulties, to
flourish in their classes.