Release Date: 
Tuesday, May 8, 2007
John G. Paré Jr.
Director of Public Relations
National Federation of the Blind
(410) 659-9314, extension 2371
(410) 913-3912 (Cell)

Blind College Students in Maryland Will Have Textbooks on Time

Governor O’Malley Signs Landmark Legislation Providing for Electronic Access

Annapolis, Maryland (May 8, 2007): Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley signed legislation today that will ensure that blind college and graduate students in the state will have timely access to textbooks and course materials in a format they can use.  The legislation, passed at the urging of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland, provides for textbooks to be converted into an electronic format specified by the Maryland Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped.  The electronic format will allow blind students to download their textbooks to computers or Braille devices.

“In the past, blind students in Maryland have had to wait for their books to be produced in Braille or in recorded form by volunteers or by the state,” said Dr. Michael Gosse, president of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland.  “Technology now makes it possible for students to have access to their books and course materials at the same time as their sighted peers, as long as the books are in a standard electronic format.  This legislation requires that publishers provide electronic copies of their books so that blind students can access them directly with a computer or Braille device.  It is a historic piece of legislation, because never before have blind students had access to textbooks at the same time as the sighted.”

Amy Herstein, a blind sophomore at the University of Maryland of Baltimore County, said: “Today is truly a great day for students like me.  I will no longer have to worry about hiring someone to read to me or spending hours scanning my textbooks into a computer.  Having timely access to my books means that I will never get behind in my course work simply because a book isn’t available in an accessible format.  College is hard work, but my life as a blind college student has just been made a whole lot easier.”