Background on the Commission
The Advisory Commission on Accessible Instructional Materials in Postsecondary Education for Students with Disabilities was established under the Higher Education Opportunity Act and they held their first meeting on September 27, 2010.
The basic goal of the commission is to:
indentify ways to improve the opportunities for postsecondary students with print disabilities to access instructional materials in a comparable timeframe as the instructional materials for nondisabled students.
The commission is working to identify barriers and systemic issues as well as consider technical solutions. However, Gaeir acknowledged that whatever solutions exist today will likely not be the solution three years from now. As an example, the California Assembly Bill 422 passed in 1999 requires publishers to provide electronic text for students with disabilities for certain colleges and universities in ASCII format (no bold, italics or other formatting).
Six Areas the Commission is Considering
Accessible Formats With Comparable Timeframe and Costs
How students with print disabilities may obtain instructional materials in accessible formats within a comparable timeframe and at costs comparable to the costs of such materials for nondisabled students.
Feasibility of Standards
The feasibility and technical parameters of establishing standardized electronic file formats to be provided by publishers of instructional materials to producers of materials in accessible formats, institutions of higher education, and eligible students.
The feasibility of establishing a national clearinghouse, repository, or file-sharing network for electronic files used in producing instructional materials in accessible formats, and a list of possible entitites qualified to adminiser such a clearinghouse, repository, or network.
The feasibility of establishing market-based solutions involving collaborations among publishers of instructional materials, producers of materials in accessible formats, and institutions of higher education.
Solutions utilizing universal design.
Low Incident, High Cost Materials
Solutions for low-incidence, high-cost requests for instructional materials in accessible formats.
Four Task Forces
Gaeir was clear that they are still early in the process and the ideas express are simply a snapshot of their current thinking.
Task Force One
This task force is considering high-cost & low-incidence materials such as braille and tactile graphics as well as instructional materials in the areas of:
- foreign languages, and
- graduate studies.
They are also considering best practices, the definition of print disability (based on functional limitations) and the definition of instructional materials. Their report will include current data that shows that approximately 1% of all students have some type of print disability.
Task Force Two
This task force is looking at technology Issues, the possibility of a file repository, a standardized format and a federated search.
This group so far has recommended that it is not feasible to recommend a standardized file format. However, they are recommending a single repository and they do recommend a federated search to consolidate data and adding metadata to files pertaining to accessibility.
Task Force Three
This task force is looking at market model solutions, E-pub and DAISY formats, Web solutions, Open Educational Resources (OER), Digital Rights Management (DRM) and Universal Design for Learning (UDL).
Considering the market model solutions, they are looking to find where market needs and the needs of users with disabilities overlap. Gaeir mentioned the example of text messaging that is replacing TTY services for many people.
Task Force Four
There are difficult issues to resolve in this area, but they are feeling that any rework of copyright will not pass the legislature. They are looking at how there can be an appropriate balance between copyright law and civil rights law. Because the exceptions under the Chaffee Amendment require that a learning disability be organic based, they are also working on providing guidelines that include current brain research on the organic basis of learning disabilities.
Gaier is really excited about DAISY, but she mentioned that most students are still requesting Word or MP3 files in postsecondary settings because those are the formats that they are used to. She feels like this will change as the younger generation grows up using DAISY.
The commission is planning on having a rough draft of their report at the AHEAD Conference in July.
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