RE: Improving Access to Instructional Materials in Higher Education

Year: 
2008
Resolution Number: 
2008-06

RESOLUTION 2008-06
RE: Improving Access to Instructional Materials in Higher Education

WHEREAS, for many years the National Federation of the Blind has worked tirelessly to improve the accessibility of instructional materials for blind college students; and

WHEREAS, the chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labor, George Miller (D-CA) has included language on the accessibility of instructional materials for college students in HR 4137, the College Opportunity and Affordability Act of 2008, House legislation to reauthorize higher education programs; and

WHEREAS, this language is acceptable to this organization only as a first step toward achieving meaningful accessibility of instructional materials; and

WHEREAS, S 1642, the Higher Education Amendments of 2007, did not include provisions for accessibility of instructional materials; and

WHEREAS, since HR 4137 and S 1642 were passed by their respective houses of Congress, a conference committee will be required to resolve differences in the bills; and

WHEREAS, the provisions in HR 4137 would create a commission to study how to make instructional materials available to blind and print-disabled college students in a timely manner and would make recommendations to Congress for future legislation; and

WHEREAS, on this commission users of instructional materials in higher education and those who support greater access to such materials would be well represented, thus enhancing the likelihood that its conclusions would foster greater access for the blind to these instructional materials; and

WHEREAS, this commission would also collect data from a pilot program by an existing entity that is already providing accessible materials to college students; and

WHEREAS, a serious flaw in this legislation is that the commission would have only one year to make recommendations for legislation or regulations assuring that blind and print-disabled college students receive instructional materials on time, while the pilot program would serve an extremely small number of students who are already being served and would last for three years with a possible three-year extension: NOW, THEREFORE,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this fifth day of July, 2008, in the city of Dallas, Texas, that this organization urge Congress to include, as a part of any enacted legislation to reauthorize higher education programs, provisions to create a commission with significant representation of users of higher education instructional materials and other stakeholders to advance opportunities for blind students to receive their materials on time, and to offer one or more pilot programs to provide accessible instructional materials to higher education students; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization urge Congress to eliminate any extensions of the pilot programs beyond the initial period because they will have only a token impact on access to instructional materials for blind college students.

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