AAP & SIIA Welcome Legislation to Advance Equal Access for Higher Education Students with Disabilities
New AIM HE Act Creates a Multi-Stakeholder Commission to Improve Availability of Accessible Electronic Instructional Materials for Students with Disabilities
Washington, DC (September 23, 2016): The Association of American Publishers (AAP) and the Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA) commend the introduction of the Accessible Instructional Materials in Higher Education Act (AIM HE), which will take steps to provide greater access to higher education materials and related technologies for students with disabilities.
The bill was introduced by Congressman Phil Roe (R-TN) and Congressman Joe Courtney (D-CT), and is supported by a coalition that includes AAP, SIIA, the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), the American Council on Education (ACE), and EDUCAUSE.
The goal of the AIM HE Act is to help ensure students with disabilities are afforded the same educational benefits as non-disabled students regarding access to higher education materials and related technologies. To accomplish this, the legislation creates an independent Commission to issue a set of voluntary guidelines based on a review of national and international information technology accessibility standards.
The voluntary guidelines will help developers and manufacturers of learning materials and technologies understand how to improve the accessibility of the digital learning products they make available in the commercial marketplace. The guidelines will also enable higher education institutions to more easily select such materials and technologies with the needs of students with disabilities in mind.
"AAP’s General Counsel Allan Adler has worked for many years with the NFB, ACE and EDUCAUSE to make accessible learning materials and technologies more available for students with disabilities,” said Tom Allen, President and CEO of AAP. “Educational publishers understand that learning materials are a critical component of student success, and the introduction of this legislation is an important step in the process of increasing the commercial availability of accessible instructional materials in higher education. We urge its swift passage.”
“Technology is often one of the most effective equalizers for students with disabilities,” said Ken Wasch, SIIA President. “By providing clear and consistent guidance to technology developers, this legislation will help ensure that all students have access to high-quality materials, and will complement existing protections for students with disabilities. SIIA and our member high-tech companies strive to develop innovative digital instructional materials that are accessible by all students, and we commend everyone involved for working together on this important effort.”
The proposed Commission will be comprised of representatives from the communities of persons with disabilities, industry developers and manufacturers of instructional materials and related technologies, as well as representatives from institutions of higher education. Every five years after the Commission issues its initial set of voluntary guidelines, the Secretary of Education will request public comments on the need to update the guidelines.
Nothing in the legislation will change existing federal laws and regulations that prohibit discrimination based on an individual’s disabilities. Instead, institutions of higher education that use learning materials and technologies which conform to the voluntary guidelines developed by the Commission will be deemed in compliance with their obligations under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The legislation will allow colleges and universities to select materials or technologies that do not conform to the voluntary guidelines, provided that the schools meet their existing obligations under such laws to provide appropriate and reasonable modifications, accommodations, or auxiliary aids or services that will ensure equal educational benefits for students with disabilities. The bill does not impose any new legal obligations on any party.
AAP and SIIA represent companies that create learning materials and the technologies through which students at colleges and universities can access and use them.
Find a press release from U.S. Rep. Phil Roe here.
AAP: Marisa Bluestone, Communications Director, firstname.lastname@example.org
SIIA: Brendan Desetti, Director of Education Policy, email@example.com
About the Association of American Publishers (AAP)
The Association of American Publishers (AAP) represents about four hundred member organizations including major commercial, digital learning and education and professional publishers alongside independents, non-profits, university presses and scholarly societies. We represent the industry’s priorities on policy, legislative and regulatory issues regionally, nationally and worldwide. These include the protection of intellectual property rights and worldwide copyright enforcement, digital and new technology issues, funding for education and libraries, tax and trade, censorship and literacy. Find us online at www.publishers.org or on twitter at @AmericanPublish.
About the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA)
SIIA is the principal trade association for the software and digital content industry, representing more than 700 high tech companies. Some 200 SIIA members work with K-12 schools and institutions of higher education nationwide to develop and deliver education software applications, digital instructional content, online learning services and related technologies.