Washington, D.C. (February 7, 2012): Mark Riccobono, executive director of the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute, testified today before a hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee. The hearing, “The Promise of Accessible Technology: Challenges and Opportunities,” was convened to explore the barriers and opportunities that technology presents to Americans with disabilities. Mr. Riccobono testified regarding the importance of ensuring that technology used in K-12 and postsecondary educational institutions is accessible to the blind and to other students with disabilities.
Mr. Riccobono testified in part: “Harnessing the extraordinary promise of technology is within our reach, but it will take leadership, commitment, and ongoing oversight. The alternative is a future where we spend our time, money, and innovative capacity retrofitting bridges to patch the digital divide rather than enjoying the economic and social advantages gained by the increased usability of technology and the increased leveraging of human capacity that results from technology that is designed and built to be accessible to all. … If built universally and implemented effectively, technology will make the passion and skill of our greatest teachers even more powerful as we nurture the next generation of leaders for our nation. If we fail to include accessibility in that technology, we will set this generation of students with disabilities back decades. The cost to those individuals and to our country is too great and the opportunity is too promising to stand by and let that happen.”
Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: “We would like to thank Senator Tom Harkin and the members of the HELP Committee for convening this hearing on an issue of critical importance to blind students of all ages. It is clear that an equal education for the blind will not be possible without access to the many technologies being used in both brick-and-mortar and virtual classrooms today. The National Federation of the Blind stands ready to work with legislators, technology developers, and school administrators, as well as other stakeholders, to ensure that the blind and other students with disabilities benefit from new educational technologies rather than being segregated and excluded by them.”
Mr. Riccobono made four substantive federal policy recommendations to the Committee to improve accessibility of educational technology, including:
- Stronger oversight and accountability in government
- Strong, functional, and rigorously enforced standards
- Projects to collect, develop, and disseminate best practice tools
- Improved protections against inaccessible technology in education
Mr. Riccobono’s full testimony is available upon request or by download from our Web site. For more information about the National Federation of the Blind, please visit www.nfb.org.