I am proud to say that today after ten months of anticipation; Congressman Tom Petri introduced the Technology, Education and Accessibility in College and Higher Education Act (HR 3505)! The TEACH Act creates long-overdue accessibility guidelines for electronic instructional materials and related information technologies used by institutions of higher education.
The law currently prohibits the use of inaccessible technology in the classroom because it is a form of discrimination that leaves blind students behind, and yet the overwhelming majority of digital instructional material is unusable by blind students. The guidelines created by the TEACH Act will give direction for manufacturers of educational technology to increase commercial availability of accessible materials, a prescription for institutions of higher education for how to best serve their disabled students and meet their legal obligations, and a promise that all students, disabled or not, will have equal access to high-quality education in the twenty-first century classroom.
Blind people have been waiting for at least five years (much more, in reality) to see something done about the needless burdens blind college students face because of inaccessible technology. With the introduction of the TEACH Act, we are done waiting for the process of change to start.
The creation of the TEACH Act was the result of a collaboration between the National Federation of the Blind and the Association of American Publishers. The introduction of the TEACH Act is the result of many months of networking and nuanced language tangling. However, the passage of the TEACH Act will solely be the result of the passion and power of the NFB. I have heard from so many of you about how personal this issue is, and I am always, always, always impressed at how willing and excited you all are to get going. Now we can finally stop chomping at the bit and get started! The advocacy for this bill will start with targeted meetings with Republicans on the Education and Workforce Committee. The legislative directors in the applicable states have already begun planning pre-Washington Seminar conference calls. I urge the rest of you to reach out to your members of Congress today, bringing this to their attention while it is still a brand new bill, giving them background for your upcoming Washington Seminar meetings, and even urging them to co-sponsor now. Please be advised that this is a delicate political climate – all co-sponsors are welcome, but we want this bill to be as bi-partisan as possible.
The text of the bill and an updated fact sheet are attached. If you have any questions, give me a ring at the National Center at 410.659.9314 ext. 2207 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m looking forward to working with everyone to make this thing move!