A report released Tuesday updates Congress on the state of accessibility to learning materials for college students with visual impairments such as blindness, and it recommends ways to improve their learning conditions.
The Advisory Commission on Accessible Instructional Materials in Postsecondary Education for Students with Disabilities published the report following a 14-month study on the issue. The commission found that although efforts have been made to provide visually impaired students with adequate digital materials, many students’ needs are still not being met. Oftentimes, the study found, the task of providing adequate instructional materials for blind students falls on professors, such as in the case of a blind student in Texas reported in an earlier Wired Campus post.
In the report the commission offers Congress 18 recommendations for improving access to materials for students. These recommendations fall under five categories: legal and policy, market solutions, technology, capacity building, and demonstration projects. The report calls on Congress or the administration to:
- Review the Copyright Act (section 121, the Chafee Amendment) to determine whether it should be updated to address the needs of visually impaired students.
- Consider incentives to accelerate innovation by publishers and producers of accessible course materials, hardware, and software.
- Support the development of coordinated search capabilities that let students make a single online search to easily locate accessible resources.
- Sponsor projects and programs to support professional development to help faculty and staff members select, produce, and deliver accessible instructional materials.
- Appropriate funds to the Department of Education to support projects to develop instructional materials in science and engineering courses and laboratory classes.