Resolution 2020-05 Regarding the distribution of accessible materials in higher education

WHEREAS, in today’s society, everyone is expected to obtain a college degree because it is a passport to a successful life for both sighted and blind students; and

WHEREAS, if blind students are to be successful in higher education, they must have nonvisual access to textbooks, teacher communication, and other class resources; and

WHEREAS, because of advances in technology, nonvisual access is not only readily achievable, but also can be provided at the same time as the publication of print material; and

WHEREAS, for example, in 2007, the International Digital Publishing Forum released framework for electronic publishing leading to the development of EPUB 3, an e-book file format that was adopted as a standard for publishers in 2011 that can offer immediate access to the printed word for blind students; and

WHEREAS, more and more publishers recognize the advantages of offering accessible materials to all customers as a successful business model for their companies and are willing to use the EPUB3 file format; and

WHEREAS, unfortunately, most colleges and their disability support service offices are unaware and uninformed about these advances in technology and do not take advantage of them; and

WHEREAS, too many blind students suffer needlessly waiting for accessible materials because they are unaware that new tools exist and they lack the technology skills to take advantage of these resources; and

WHEREAS, the Division of Rehabilitation Services is responsible for assisting students in their employment goal which frequently includes higher education and consequently has a responsibility to make sure that these students have the technology skills they need to succeed in college; and

WHEREAS, in 2007, legislation was enacted mandating that the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped coordinate the delivery of accessible materials to students in higher education and regulations for this program were developed in 2010; and

WHEREAS, these regulations are woefully inadequate because of the many changes and advances in the publishing industry that have occurred since 2010: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland in Convention assembled this day of November 2020 that this organization strongly encourage the Division of Rehabilitation Services to develop a technology training program for all students that it sponsors in higher education so that they can take full advantage of new technology tools; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization strongly urge the Maryland Library for the Blind and Print Disabled to update its accessible textbook program to take full advantage of the opportunities to obtain accessible materials quickly; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization strongly urge that Maryland colleges and other stakeholders work with the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland to develop a robust distribution system of accessible materials in higher education for blind students that takes full advantage of improving technology.