The Advisory Commission on Accessible Instructional Materials (AIM) in Postsecondary Education for Students with Disabilities released today a report providing Congress with vital recommendations for improving the ability of postsecondary students with disabilities to obtain accessible instructional materials in a timely and cost-effective manner.
"The AIM Commission's report sheds light on the hurdles students with disabilities too often face in accessing and completing higher education courses," said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. "Their recommendations will help our colleges and universities offer more effective resources that meet the needs of all students and provide students with disabilities the 21st century learning tools they need to be successful."
Established by the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008, the commission brought together government leaders, representatives from the publishing industry, individuals with print disabilities, representatives from two- and four-year institutions of higher education, leaders in accessible technology, and other stakeholders.
Over the course of 14 months, commission members studied the current state of accessible materials for students with disabilities in postsecondary education. Comprised of various stakeholders, including students with disabilities, members of the publishing community, higher education personnel, and content experts in the fields of disability and technology, the commission offered diverse perspectives on the state of accessible instructional materials across postsecondary campuses nationwide.
The commission's study found that:
* Students with disabilities, and most notably students with print disabilities, often experience a variety of challenges that result from inaccessible learning materials and/or their delivery systems.
* Disability resource service providers and other university personnel often must engage in labor-intensive practices to provide accessible instructional materials to students with disabilities.
* Textbook publishers and a number of electronic text vendors are moving to incorporate accessibility into their products, but many products are still inaccessible to students with disabilities who have difficulties accessing printed text.
* Opportunities for capacity building within postsecondary educational institutions are essential for improving the ability of these institutions to provide accessible instructional materials to students with disabilities.
The commission members reached consensus on 18 recommendations to address the findings of its study. Recommendations include:
* Congress should authorize the United States Access Board to establish guidelines for accessible instructional materials that will be used by government, in the private sector, and in postsecondary academic settings.
* Congress should consider incentives to accelerate innovation in accessibility by publishers and producers of course materials, hardware, and software by offering support and inducements for the production, sale, and consumption of accessible instructional materials and delivery systems.
* The commission recommends that federally sponsored projects and programs encourage and support systematic faculty and staff professional development with respect to selection, production, and delivery of high-quality accessible instruction materials to meet the needs of students with disabilities in postsecondary settings.
Dr. Alexa Posny, assistant secretary of the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services notes, "Given the growing population of students with disabilities pursuing higher education, this report will be a valuable resource in improving our ability to better serve students with disabilities while also helping more students' complete postsecondary programs."
A complete list of the commission's recommendations is available at http://www2.ed.gov/about/bdscomm/list/aim/publications.html.
For more on the Advisory Commission on Accessible Instructional Materials (AIM) in Postsecondary Education for Students with Disabilities, visit http://www2.ed.gov/about/bdscomm/list/aim/index.html.