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Postsecondary Accessible Instructional Materials: Legal Recommendations

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) Postsecondary Accessible Instructional Materials (AIM) Commission held an extensive, half-day session on Friday to discuss the working draft of its Legal Task Force’s recommendations. Key discussion points included:

  • Refining the current Recommendation 6, which proposed new rule-making by ED and the U.S. Department of Justice to lessen the repetitive certifications students may encounter in proving their eligibility for accommodations; the commission determined that it should recommend the departments evaluate the issue and whether it could be addressed through existing enforcement or would require new rule-making.
  • The need for revisions to the current Recommendation 7 to clarify the proposal for a new standards board to create voluntary performance criteria and technical standards for postsecondary instructional materials.
  • Whether to maintain the current Recommendation 8 proposing the possible creation by Congress of a right for students with disabilities to sue instructional materials providers who fail to meet “certain conditions when publishing works in digital format,” or whether to fold it into Recommendation 7 or to reference it as an example of possible action in  an expanded Recommendation 12, which recommends that Congress consider new statutory mandates to ensure the availability of accessible instructional materials, especially in the digital space, if the market continues not to meet the need.

The latter point generated significant dialogue as publishing representatives raised concerns about the potential for excessive and unwarranted litigation if Congress enacted Recommendation 8. Meanwhile, advocates for persons with disabilities noted the lack of effectiveness of complaints against colleges and universities in generating progress in the production of accessible materials by instructional content providers to the higher education space. The full commission agreed, though, that applications and cloud services providers should also be addressed in any effort to foster greater accessibility in the development and delivery of digital learning materials.

The commission is set to meet again at the Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD) Conference on July 11 in Seattle, Washington, with a public hearing to follow on July 12. The commission will be considering a draft commission report based on the individual task force reports, such as the Legal Task Force working draft, with a deadline for producing a final report to Congress by the end of September.

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