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House Bill Would Impose Accessibility Standards on Technology in Education

On November 15, Representative Tom Petri (R-WI) introduced legislation requiring all universities and postsecondary educational facilities make all electronic instructional materials used in their classrooms accessible to students with disabilities. If ultimately passed, the Technology, Equality, and Accessibility in College and Higher Education Act, also known as the TEACH Act, would mandate any and all digital learning resources and related technologies must be made available to these students in a manner equally effective and integrated into the learning process as that available to other students. If these products cannot be made available to them in such a fashion, the school must provide modifications or accommodations so these students can take advantage of the benefits of the technology on par with other students.  The proposed standard in the legislation is stricter than existing law.

Representative Petri explains H.R. 3505 was drafted as an answer to certain colleges and universities using electronic book readers, which did not fully accommodate students with disabilities. He argues his legislation is consistent with the requirements outlined in the Americans with Disabilities Act and Rehabilitation Act of 1973 as well as the 2010 guidance issued by the Departments of Education and Justice.

In order to assist schools in meeting the new expectations, the bill mandates the Access Board, an independent federal agency, develop guidelines for permissible electronic instructional materials. These guidelines would not be all encompassing and schools would not be required to find technology that meets these guidelines, but all electronic materials would need to provide equivalent or greater accommodations.

The press release issued by Representative Petri can be found at his website.

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I think this is excellent. Inclusion in education is necessary if higher education  institutions are to be effective in facilitating student learning. Students today are diverse and those who once were denied access to higher education, are now frequenting the "classroom". Students with disabilities should be provided for just as any other student at the institution. Is this realistic in totality though? Can we provide for all students in the same way? Maybe ensuring that all are provided for based on their individual needs may be more realistic. Finding one peacemeal for all seems like an impossible feat.

This is great as all students should have the opportunity to be successful but I wondering how this will affect the adoption of some digital learning resources for some smaller schools with limited budgets?

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