FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
National Federation of the Blind Urges Swift Action
on Recommendations for Accessible Higher Education Materials
Baltimore, Maryland (December 13, 2011): The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) commented today on the recently released final report of the Advisory Commission on Accessible Instructional Materials in Postsecondary Education for Students with Disabilities. The commission was created by Congress following extensive advocacy by the NFB as part of the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008. The report sets forth specific recommendations to facilitate the production and distribution of accessible instructional materials—including printed and digital books, journals, course packs, articles, tests, videos, instructor-created materials, and Web pages, as well as any hardware, firmware, software, or other means of accessing such materials—to students who are blind or have other disabilities. The report focuses on making mainstream educational products accessible to the maximum extent possible, allowing students with and without disabilities to access the same materials at the same time and at the same price.
Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: “The blind and other students with disabilities have an equal right to participate in higher education. Access to textbooks and other instructional materials has historically presented the greatest barrier to a truly equal education for blind students. The transition from print to digital materials presents great challenges; but, if managed properly, it will mean that blind students and other students with disabilities will, for the first time, have equal access to educational content on the same terms as their non-disabled peers. This report presents recommendations that, if properly implemented, will help to ensure that this potential is realized.”
Mark Riccobono, executive director of the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute and a member of the commission, said: “Ultimately the success of this report will depend on whether Congress acts to implement its recommendations, but the recommendations themselves are strong and will make a real difference to postsecondary students with disabilities if implemented. As the report notes, while there is some activity in the mainstream market to include accessibility in electronic textbooks and other products, it will take a combination of market incentives and government regulations in order to ensure that the blind and other students with disabilities are placed on equal footing with their peers. If the report’s recommendations are not acted upon, however, students with disabilities will be put at a greater disadvantage than ever before in terms of access to educational materials. We therefore urge Congress to act swiftly on the commission’s recommendations.”