Future Reflections                                                                                       Convention, 2002

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2003 Update on the Instructional
Materials Accessibility Act (IMAA)

 

No, the IMAA legislation did not pass in the 107th Congress. But, we are back again this year, stronger than ever! The following is a letter written by IMAA sponsors Thomas E. Petri ® of Wisconsin and George Miller (D) of California to their colleagues in the House of Representatives. Two days after the letter below was written, on January 29, Petri and Miller introduced H.R. 490, the Instructional Materials Accessibility Act (IMAA). As we go to press, the bill already has 42 cosponsors. It is crucial that you contact your representative and urge that he/she sign onto the bill as a cosponsor. The more cosponsors on the bill, the more likely it will get out of committee and go to the floor for a vote. We anticipate that by the time you get this issue Senator Christopher Dodd (D) of Connecticut will have introduced a companion bill in the Senate. For more information about the IMAA and what you can do to help, please contact

James McCarthy
Assistant Director of Governmental Affairs
National Federation of the Blind
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
(410) 659-9314 extension 240
jmccarthy@nfb.org

Here, now, is the letter from Petri and Miller:

IMPROVE EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES FOR BLIND STUDENTS:
SUPPORT THE INSTRUCTIONAL MATERIALS ACCESSIBILITY ACT

January 27, 2003

Dear Colleague,

This week, we will reintroduce the Instructional Materials Accessibility Act (IMAA), bipartisan legislation to ensure that blind and other visually impaired students will receive textbooks in a usable format at the same time as all other students.  The IMAA (H.R. 4582) attracted broad support from 88 cosponsors in the 107th Congress. 

Jessie Kirchner

Following a surprise visit from United States Secretary of
Education, Rod Paige, Jessie Kirchner, a blind high school student
from Guilford, Connecticut, gives a brief but eloquent statement at the
2002 convention describing the need for the IMAA.

 

Currently, it is the exception rather than the rule that blind students have access to textbooks for a given class at the beginning of the school year.  Because of the cumbersome process needed to translate a textbook into Braille or other specialized format, it often takes months for the blind student to have the same materials as his or her sighted peers, by which time only a heroic effort can save this student from being hopelessly behind in class.  Although states have the obligation under IDEA, ADA, and other federal statutes to provide equivalent educational opportunities to disabled and non-disabled students, it has become apparent that specific and practical standards need to be put in place to anticipate accessibility needs in this area.  This legislation will streamline the materials acquisition process in a number of ways.  Specifically, the bill:

Last Congress, the strong support and great need for this legislation prompted the Department of Education to fund the development of a voluntary standardized electronic format for specialized instructional materials.  Once completed, this national file format would implement a significant piece of the IMAA.  However, a national file format by itself will not solve all the problems which cause delays in the delivery of textbooks to visually impaired students.  That is why this legislation is still needed.  The IMAA has been endorsed by the Association of American Publishers, the National Federation of the Blind, the American Foundation for the Blind, and many other organizations representing the visually impaired.  To cosponsor please call Jason Delisle at __ (Petri) or Ruth Friedman at __ (Miller).

Sincerely,
Thomas E. Petri, Member of Congress
George Miller, Member of Congress

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