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WHEREAS, a high-quality education is essential in order to compete for jobs, participate in community life, and sustain economic independence; and
WHEREAS, Congress recognized the right of individuals with disabilities to receive a free, appropriate public education by enacting the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which requires individualized plans of instruction to meet the particular needs of each disabled student but does not always put in place efficient systems to meet those needs; and
WHEREAS, despite IDEA, the lack of accessible instructional materials is still a barrier to a high-quality education for blind students, largely due to the labor-intensive and costly process of converting texts and other materials into accessible formats such as Braille when the conversion must be done by hand; and
WHEREAS, this conversion process could be streamlined significantly to reduce the burdens of both time and cost currently placed on local school districts if publishers of textbooks would promptly furnish an electronic version of each textbook that could then be converted into specialized formats for blind children; and
WHEREAS, some states have enacted legislation to address this need by requiring publishers to provide an electronic version of materials to education agencies when such agencies purchase print editions for sighted students, but this state-by-state approach does not address the needs of all blind children covered by IDEA since publishers do not often furnish electronic texts in states not requiring them to do so; and
WHEREAS, the Association of American Publishers (AAP) acknowledges that providing electronic text to support conversion of instructional materials into specialized formats for the blind is part of the responsibility of publishers; however, in spite of expressed good intentions, this responsibility is not being met voluntarily: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this eighth day of July, 2000, in the City of Atlanta, Georgia, that this organization call upon Congress to turn the promise of IDEA into the reality of books for our nationís blind children by enacting legislation to compel publishers to provide usable electronic versions of textbooks purchased for sighted children to school districts serving blind children.