Resolution 2020-01 Regarding Access to Educational Platforms and Materials


WHEREAS, access to the full curriculum is vital for participation in in-person and virtual education settings for all students; and


WHEREAS, Accessibility barriers impede full access to the educational environment for blind and low vision students and for others with print disabilities; and


WHEREAS, Both Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) require schools to provide reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities; and


WHEREAS, The United States Department of Justice (USDOJ) and the United States Department of Education (Ed) issued a Joint Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) on June 29, 2010, noting that "individuals with disabilities must be provided with the same aids, benefits, or services that provide an equal opportunity to achieve the same result or the same level of achievement as others"; and


WHEREAS, On November 12, 2014, USDOJ and Ed issued a Joint DCL stating that: “Students with disabilities, like all students, must be provided the opportunity to fully participate in our public schools,” and that “a critical aspect of participation is communication with others”; and


WHEREAS, In September 2017 and on March 12, 2020, Ed unequivocally reminded school districts that students with disabilities retain full rights to educational opportunities, including access to a free appropriate public education (FAPE) whenever school districts provide any educational opportunities to nondisabled students; and


WHEREAS, Many school districts in Maryland have ignored their longstanding accessibility obligations to blind and low vision students, purchasing and implementing educational technologies that are only partially accessible to these students or are not accessible at all; and


WHEREAS, Despite clear guidance from Ed, the shift to part-time or full-time remote instruction in many Maryland school districts due to the COVID-19 pandemic has heightened learning barriers for blind and low vision students; and


WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland (NFBMD) and the Maryland Organization of Parents of Blind Children (MDPOBC), sent all 24 school districts and the Maryland State Department of Education a letter on August 3, 2020 reminding them of their obligations concerning accessible curriculum, learning platforms, and education services for blind students; and


WHEREAS, this letter also asked each school district to share the methods by which they are ensuring accessibility in their programs, curricula, and learning platforms; and


WHEREAS, only some of the school districts responded to this letter, and most responses failed to commit to ensuring equal access to educational programs, curricula, and learning platforms: 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 demand that the Maryland State Department of Education and school districts throughout the state purchase and implement the use of educational materials that are fully accessible to blind and low vision students; and


BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization strongly urge these entities to consult with the National Federation of the Blind and the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland for recommendations about the purchase and implementation of fully accessible materials.