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Draft Recommendations, Postsecondary Accessible Instructional Materials Commission

The federal Postsecondary Accessible Instructional Materials (AIM) Commission met earlier this week to discuss the commission’s first full draft of its potential recommendations to Congress for improving access to postsecondary instructional materials for students with disabilities. While the document is still clearly a working draft, it brings together for the first time all of the recommendations of the commission’s task forces as edited based on the input of the full commission to this point.

In an interesting development from the commission’s June meeting, it appears that the controversial proposed recommendation on establishing a private right for students to sue content/application providers (not just their colleges and universities) for failing to provide accessible instructional materials has given way to a more modest provision:

“If the marketplace fails to achieve accessible formats for post-secondary students with print disabilities, Congress should step in and consider all necessary and appropriate measures, including new statutory protections and market regulation.”

The recommendation on creating a standards body or tasking the existing U.S. Access Board with developing and promoting relevant criteria and standards for postsecondary instructional materials remains. Likewise, the draft recommendations display a clear emphasis on expanding the responsibility for the provision of accessible instructional materials in digital formats from publishers alone to the learning management system and software application providers; for example:

“Similarly, all materials delivery systems, including courseware, learning management systems, assessment systems and other commonly-implemented institution communications must also be available and offer equitable access to all students.”

The commission specifically addresses the need for higher education institutions to ensure that they take into account instructional materials beyond just text books (e.g., online reserves, multimedia companion resources to texts) in striving to comply with ADA and Section 504 requirements. It also recommends that institutions receiving federal grants be required to “aggressively” educate their faculty, staff, and students on accessible instructional materials requirements and related issues.

The next draft of the commission’s recommendations should be available for review around its August 12 meeting, with the final draft of the full commission report due to Congress on September 27.