FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Release Date: 
Wednesday, March 29, 2017
Category: 
Chris Danielsen
Director of Public Relations
National Federation of the Blind
(410) 659-9314, extension 2330
(410) 262-1281 (Cell)

The National Federation of the Blind Applauds Introduction of AIM HIGH Act

Law Will Promote Equal Access to Higher Education for People with Disabilities

Baltimore, Maryland (March 29, 2017): Today, the National Federation of the Blind commends Congressman Phil Roe (R-TN) and Congressman Joe Courtney (D-CT) for introducing the Accessible Instructional Materials in Higher Education Act of 2017, also known as the AIM HIGH Act (H.R. 1772). This act will promote instructional technology and content that are accessible to the blind and other students with print disabilities.

Mark A. Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: "The National Federation of the Blind has worked for years toward the introduction of this much-needed legislation, which will give postsecondary institutions guidance to help them meet their legal obligations to students with disabilities, and also bring more accessible instructional materials to the higher education market. Blind students are adversely impacted daily by educational technologies that artificially limit students because they were designed without accessibility in mind. As a past member of the Commission on Accessible Instructional Materials, whose work identified this crucial need, and a father of three, including two daughters who are blind, I am pleased to see this goal come to fruition. We applaud Congressman Roe and Congressman Courtney for their introduction of this legislation and urge their colleagues to join them in supporting its swift passage."

Congressman Roe said: “No student pursuing their education should be put at a disadvantage because they have a disability, and this bill simply encourages higher education institutions to provide equal access to all instructional materials. With more students’ coursework requiring digital resources, it makes sense to encourage colleges and universities to make accessible material available to support all their students, including those who have a disability. I thank Rep. Courtney for partnering with me on this important issue and I look forward to moving this bill through the legislative process. I also thank all the stakeholders who have worked so hard to develop a commonsense solution that can be supported on a bipartisan basis.”

“The goal of our bill is to ensure that no student is put at a disadvantage while pursuing a higher education degree because they have a disability,” said Congressman Courtney. “With colleges and universities across the country converting to digital resources, we need to ensure that students with disabilities have equal access to the tools and resources at the disposal of other students. I want to thank Rep. Roe for once again leading this bipartisan effort with me, and I look forward to working with him to get this measure passed this Congress.”

The AIM High Act will authorize a purpose-based commission comprised of persons with disabilities, developers, and manufacturers, as well as representatives from institutions of higher education. This commission will develop voluntary accessibility guidelines for instructional materials used in postsecondary educational programs. Additionally, the commission will be tasked with developing an annotated list of existing national and international information technology standards as an additional resource for institutions of higher education and companies that service the higher education market.

Institutions of higher education that only use technology that conforms with the guidelines will be deemed in compliance with the provisions of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act that pertain to the use of electronic instructional materials, giving them a safe harbor protection from litigation. Colleges and universities will be permitted to use material that does not conform with the guidelines as long as equal access laws are still honored. Conformity with the AIM High guidelines is only one path to compliance; schools can pursue a different path, but will forfeit the safe harbor legal protection.

The AIM High Act is a collaborative legislative initiative of the National Federation of the Blind, the American Council on Education, the Association of American Publishers, Educause®, and the Software and Information Industry Association.