Disability rights advocates and book publishers are pushing for federal regulations to ensure higher education technology is accessible to tens of thousands of students with visual impairments.
According to a 2011 AIM Report on the accessibility and inaccessibility of instructional material, approximately 2.1 million American students have some kind of disability, including about 63,000 with visual impairments.
The National Federation of the Blind has drafted a bill designed to ensure students with disabilities are not left behind on college campuses by new technologies. The proposed legislation, which is known as the Technology, Equality and Accessibility in College and Higher Education Act (TEACH Act), has the support of the American Association of Publishers and about a dozen other disability rights groups including the Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD).
AHEAD has endorsed the proposed bill which would require the federal Access Board an independent agency devoted to accessibility for people with disabilities, to develop national standards for accessible higher education technology products. Enforcement of the standards would be the responsibility of the Department of Justice. The standards would apply to both the companies that produce educational materials and the colleges that require their use.
What happens next to the proposed bill is unclear. NFB is looking for sponsors in the House and Senate and hopes to the bill introduced by early July.