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Blind and Print-Disabled Students Will Have Equal Access to Textbooks

Instructional Materials Accessibility Act Introduced in Congress

For Immediate Release
April 24, 2002

Washington, DC—The Instructional Materials Accessibility Act of 2002 (IMAA), legislation that will dramatically improve access to textbooks for students who are blind or who have other print disabilities in elementary and secondary schools, was introduced today in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. The purpose of this bipartisan legislation is to ensure that instructional materials for blind or other people with print disabilities are received in an accessible medium at the same time as their nondisabled peers. To this end, the IMAA will harness advances in technology to create an efficient system for acquiring and distributing these materials in specialized formats, which include braille, synthesized speech, digital text, digital audio, and large print.

The IMAA was drafted collaboratively by the American Council of the Blind, American Foundation for the Blind (AFB), American Printing House for the Blind, Association of American Publishers (AAP), Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired, National Federation of the Blind, and Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic, in concert with several other national groups.

Senators Christopher Dodd (D-CT) and Thad Cochran (R-MS) and Representatives Thomas Petri (R-WI) and George Miller (D-CA) are the lead sponsors of this legislation. Other members of Congress have already signed on as original co-sponsors of the bill.

The IMAA mandates the adoption of a standardized, national electronic file format. Publishers of instructional materials will be required to submit an electronic file of all textbooks in this universal file format. These files will enable the instructional materials to be more easily converted into accessible formats according to an industry standard. The IMAA also provides for a central depository for these files, so that state and local agencies, publishers, and other groups can more quickly acquire the materials. A provision in the bill describes how state and local education agencies will be responsible for developing and implementing a statewide plan to utilize these files to ensure that blind or visually impaired students and other print-disabled students may have quicker access to instructional materials.

This national electronic file format and depository will have far-reaching benefits. "With the IMAA, we are witnessing the start of something truly ground-breaking," said Carl R. Augusto, president and CEO of the AFB.

"We are very committed to our work to ensure that all students, including those who are blind or print-disabled, have access to textbooks and materials that they need and can use," said former Congresswoman Pat Schroeder, president and CEO of AAP.

With the IMAA, blindness organizations and publishers intend to break down the barriers that have prevented access to textbooks and instructional materials by blind or visually impaired students. "More than at any other time," as Helen Keller once remarked, "when I hold a beloved book in my hand my limitations fall from me, my spirit is free."

The American Foundation for the Blind—the organization to which Helen Keller devoted her life—is a national nonprofit whose mission is to eliminate the inequities faced by the ten million Americans who are blind or visually impaired. Headquartered in New York City, AFB maintains offices in Chicago, Dallas, San Francisco, a National Literacy Center in Atlanta, a governmental relations office in Washington, DC, and a Technology and Employment Center in Huntington, WV. For more information about the American Foundation for the Blind, visit www.afb.org.

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Contact:

Paul Schroeder
AFB Governmental Relations
202-408-0200
afbgov@afb.net

Brent Hopkins
AFB New York
212-502-7676
bhopkins@afb.net

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