Introduction to the AFB Textbooks and Instructional Materials Solutions Forum
The AFB Textbooks and Instructional Materials Solutions Forum addresses one of the most serious issues affecting the education of students with visual impairments today. Despite everyone's best efforts and advancements in technology, many visually impaired students do not receive textbooks and other instructional materials in braille, large print, audio, or other needed special media at the same time as their sighted classmates.
Children who are blind or visually impaired have the same right to a quality education as any other child. This right is guaranteed by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Unfortunately, these students do not receive their classroom materials at the same time as their sighted classmates. Braille, large-print, or audio recorded instructional materials routinely arrive long after classes begin or, too frequently, not at all. Students with visual impairments compete on a par with their sighted classmates, but without the benefit of equal and timely access to textbooks or instructional materials. The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) initiated this national campaign to define solutions to this challenge, based on the principle that the technology available today, advance planning, and timely distribution of tools for learning can eliminate these barriers to a student's progress.
The AFB Solutions Forum is a collaborative national effort of agencies and organizations involved in the production and distribution of textbooks and instructional materials. Textbook publishers, producers of specialized media, assistive technology specialists, educators, Instructional Materials Resource Centers, parents, consumers, and others are examining the multifaceted process of producing and delivering educational materials in accessible media to students who are blind or visually impaired. The AFB Solutions Forum is a direct result of issues identified in Goal #7 of the National Agenda for the Education of Children and Youths with Visual Impairments, Including Those With Multiple Disabilities.
The goal of the AFB Solutions Forum is to develop a coordinated action plan for assuring equality of access to instructional materials for students who are blind or visually impaired. Five work groups have taken the initiative to improve the delivery of textbooks in the appropriate media. Information posted on the AFB Solutions Forum Web Page highlights the activities of the following five work groups: Electronic Files and Research and Development, Legislative and Policy Making, Production Process, Training and Other Needs, and Communication and Collaboration.
The AFB Solutions Forum will address the:
- Lack of standardization of electronic file formats provided by textbook publishers.
- Inaccessibility of multimedia textbooks, especially those delivered via the Internet and CD-ROM.
- Variation in state textbook regulations regarding accessible instructional materials.
- Expense of producing specialized materials and lack of fiscal incentives to develop new technologies.
- Shortage of qualified braille transcribers and production resources.
- Barriers to communication and collaboration, including duplication of efforts.
Additional information may be found on the web site of the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired at www.tsbvi.edu/textbooks/index.htm and the Association of American Publishers at www.publishers.org.
- Electronic Files & Research and Development
- Legislative and Policy-Making
- Production Process
- Training and Other Needs
- Communication and Collaboration
AFB Solutions Forum Coordinator:
Mary Ann Siller
11030 Ables Lane
Dallas, TX 75229