Main content

Alert message

Blind students with white canes waiting to cross Congress Avenue, a busy six lane road.

June 2002 (links and descriptive information updated 4/2017)

The following is a sample list of web resources compiled for the AFB Solutions Forum. Some web addresses may change after publication of this tool kit.

American Foundation for the Blind (AFB)

Founded in 1921, the American Foundation for Blind has spent nearly a century ensuring that individuals who are blind or visually impaired have access to the information, technology, education, and legal resources they need to live independent and productive lives. From our earliest days, AFB amplifies the voices of people with vision loss, and have been the engine of advancement and opportunity for every person affected by blindness or vision loss.

Headquartered in New York City, AFB maintains offices in Chicago and Dallas, a National Literacy Center in Atlanta, a National Employment Center in San Francisco, a governmental relations office in Washington, DC, and a Technology and Employment Center in Huntington, WV.

AFB offers:

  • Objective, comprehensive accessibility evaluation of mainstream and specialized technological products
  • Esther's Place- A fully furnished model home filled with simple adaptations and products designed to make daily life more manageable (Dallas, TX)
  • eLearning Center covering topics like technology, education, Orientation and Mobility, aging, employment and rehabilitation
  • Professional development opportunities
  • The Public Policy Center collaborates with policy makers in Congress and the Executive Branch to ensure Americans with vision loss have equal rights and opportunities to fully participate in society (Washington D.C.)

American Council of the Blind (ACB)

The American Council of the Blind strives to increase the independence, security, equality of opportunity, and quality of life, for all blind and visually-impaired people.

American Printing House for the Blind (APH)

Provides media, tools and materials needed for education and independence for blind and visually impaired persons. Services include: Creating publications in accessible formats, the development and manufacture of educational and independent living products, product training and support, the LOUIS database, and product training seminars.

Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER)

Promotes professional excellence through support of those who provide services to people with visual impairments. Services include: Continuing education opportunities for professionals, monthly publication of jobs, keeping membership informed about news in the field of education and rehabilitation.

Association of American Publishers (AAP)

The Association of American Publishers (AAP) represents nearly four hundred member organizations including major commercial, digital learning, education and professional publishers alongside independents, non-profits, university presses and scholarly societies. AAP represents the publishing industry’s legislative, regulatory, and trade priorities regionally, nationally and worldwide. These include copyright and related intellectual property rights, piracy and enforcement strategies, digital growth and related business models, funding for education and libraries, fair tax and trade policies, and freedom of expression and literacy debates.

Blind Childrens Center

The goal of Blind Childrens Center is to provide a comprehensive program of specialized education and training which will optimize the blind or visually impaired child’s development and consequent opportunities to lead a meaningful and productive life. The goal of the Infant Program is to maximize an infant’s potential and lay the foundation for future development. 

Braille Authority of North America (BANA)

Works to make braille simpler and more universal, promotes and facilitates the use, teaching, and production of braille, and provides information and referral to resources involving braille standards.

California Department of Education, Clearinghouse for Specialized Media and Technology

Provides special media and technical assistance to educators, transcribers, and administrators who serve students with disabilities in California public schools.

Center for Applied Special Technology, Inc. (CAST)

Located a short distance north of Boston, CAST is a nonprofit education research and development organization that works to expand learning opportunities for all individuals through Universal Design for Learning.

Center for Parent Information and Resources

The Center for Parent Information and Resources (CPIR) serves as a central resource of information and products to the community of Parent Training Information (PTI) Centers and the Community Parent Resource Centers (CPRCs), so that they can focus their efforts on serving families of children with disabilities.

Council for Exceptional Children (CEC)

The Council for Exceptional Children is a professional association of educators dedicated to advancing the success of children with exceptionalities. We accomplish our mission through advocacy, standards, and professional development.

Council of Schools for the Blind (COSB)

The Council of Schools and Services for the Blind is a consortium of specialized schools in Canada and the United States whose major goal is improving the quality of services to children who are blind and visually impaired.

DAISY Consortium

The DAISY Consortium is a global Consortium of organizations working towards equal access to information and knowledge regardless of disability.

Duxbury Systems, Inc.

Manufactures and distributes software for translating print to braille in over 30 languages.

Education Service Center (ESC), Region 20, Braille Services

Education Service Center, Region 20 assists businesses and other agencies in complying with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements to assist visually impaired clients. For information on services or pricing, please contact directly.

Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired

The mission of Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired is to promote independent living through lifelong, distance education programs for individuals who are blind or visually impaired, their families and blindness service providers.

Homeschooling Special Needs Children

Provides information on homeschooling special needs children.

The Internet Public Library

A public service organization providing library service to Internet users.

Instructional Resource Centers for the Blind and Visually Impaired

Instructional Resource Centers for the Blind and Visually Impaired (IRCBVI) are nonprofit organizations or governmental agencies that have a primary mission to provide specialized services relating to training, education, or adaptive reading or information access needs of blind or other persons with disabilities in local school districts or special school settings. These Centers and their respective representatives are considered authorized entities by the American Printing House for the Blind (APH) for the production and delivery of textbooks and instructional materials to students who are blind or have low vision.

The Institute for Families

The Institute for Families refers parents and physicians to organizations specializing in meeting the needs of children with specific visual problems. Their staff can help locate appropriate infant care programs, school settings, learning aids, and much more. In addition, they write and publish journal articles, booklets, and newsletters for families and health care professionals.

Junior Blind of America

Junior Blind of America offers specialized services for thousands of infants, children, teens and adults at no cost to families. Through programs that offer early intervention, education, recreation, mental health, residential treatment and rehabilitation services, our students learn essential skills to help them maximize their potential and achieve their goals.

Learning Ally

Mission: To promote personal achievement when access and reading are barriers to learning by advancing the use of accessible and effective educational solutions

Library of Congress National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS)

Through a national network of cooperating libraries, NLS administers a free library program of braille and audio materials circulated to eligible borrowers in the United States by postage-free mail.

The Low Vision Gateway

The Low Vision Gateway to the Internet is your starting point  to the world's resources for vision loss, vision-impairment, blindness, low vision aids and low vision rehabilitation services.

The National Association for Parents of Children with Visual Impairments, Inc. (NAPVI) 

Assists parents of visually impaired children through information and resources, providing support and training, networking, outreach programs and advocating for educational needs.

National Braille Association (NBA)

National Braille Association, founded in 1945, is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing continuing education to those who prepare braille, and to providing braille materials to persons who are visually impaired.

National Braille Press (NBP)

The guiding purposes of National Braille Press are to promote the literacy of blind children through braille and to provide access to information that empowers blind people to actively engage in work, family, and community affairs.

National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM) at WGBH

Research and development facility dedicated to achieving media access equality for people with disabilities.

National Federation of the Blind

A national organization providing public education about blindness, information and referral services, scholarships, publications, adaptive equipment for the blind, advocacy and support services, development and evaluation of technology, and information about employment.

New York Institute for Special Education

The New York Institute for Special Education(NYISE) is a private, 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nonsectarian educational facility which provides quality programs for children who are blind or visually disabled, emotionally and learning disabled and preschoolers who are developmentally delayed.

PBS Learning Media Learning Media

PBS LearningMedia offersr high-quality, trusted digital content and solutions that inspire students and transform learning. Developed in partnership with the WGBH Educational Foundation and supported by public media stations nationwide, PBS LearningMedia engages educators and learners at all levels with PBS content.

Region IV, Education Service Center (ESC)- Braille Solutions

Region 4 Braille Services is a non-profit braille production facility that provides equal access to print materials for people who read braille.

Teaching Students with Visual Impairments: Parent Resource Books

Resources for parents specific on parenting children with visual impairments as well as books about parenting children with special needs. 

TechAdapt, Inc.

Produces materials in alternate formats (Braille). Types of content: Textbooks, commercial materials, menus, etc.

Texas Education Agency (TEA)

The Texas Education Agency is the state agency that oversees primary and secondary public education. It is headed by the commissioner of education. The mission of TEA is to provide leadership, guidance and resources to help schools meet the educational needs of all students.

Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI)

Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI) serves as a special public school in which students, ages 6 through 21, who are blind, deaf-blind, or visually impaired, including those with additional disabilities, are eligible for consideration for services on the TSBVI campus. It is also a statewide resource to parents of these children and the professionals who serve them, from birth through transition from school.

WGBH Access Servicess

For more than 40 years, the Media Access Group at WGBH has been providing accessible media services to the 36 million Americans who are deaf, hard of hearing, blind, or visually impaired. We invented captioning and video descriptions for television, and today we apply those services to movies, the web, museums, theme parks, and more. Our partner, the Carl and Ruth Shapiro Family National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM), continues to work on new media access breakthroughs that build on WGBH’s history.

For complete information about the IMAA go to www.afb.org/textbooks.asp.

H.R.4582 and S.2246 - 107th Congress - 2002

H.R.490 - 108th Congress - 2003

SECTION 2 - PURPOSE

The purpose of the Act is to improve access to printed instructional materials used by elementary and secondary school students who are blind, as well as other students who have print disabilities. This will be achieved through the creation of a system for acquiring and distributing publishers' electronic files of textbooks and other instructional materials, so that these materials can be made available in braille, synthesized speech, digital text, digital audio, or large print. The transition for implementing this new system will occur over three (3) years.

SECTION 3 - NATIONAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE AND ELECTRONIC FILE STANDARDS

This provision would require the Secretary of Education to establish a National Instructional Materials Accessibility Advisory Committee within three (3) months of the date of enactment.

No later than twelve (12) months after the date of enactment, the Secretary, in consultation with the Advisory Committee and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, would be required to issue technical standards for a "national electronic file format" suitable for efficient conversion into specialized formats, such as braille, synthesized speech, digital text, digital audio books, or large print.

The national electronic file format would preempt electronic file format requirements, and publishers would be required to begin using the national electronic file format no later than two (2) years after the standards are published in the Federal Register as a final rule.

SECTION 4 - STATEWIDE PLAN AND CONTRACTS WITH PUBLISHERS

Within two (2) years of enactment, the IMAA would require each state educational agency receiving federal financial assistance under the Individuals with Disabilities Act ("IDEA") to develop and implement a written statewide plan to ensure that printed instructional materials required for classroom use in elementary and secondary schools are made available in specialized formats to individuals who are blind or have other print disabilities at the same time such materials are provided to individuals without such disabilities.

In addition, each such state educational agency would be required, as part of any adoption process, procurement contract, or other practice or instrument used for the purchase of instructional materials, to enter into a written contract with the publisher of the materials requiring the publisher, in conjunction with its provision of the materials, to also provide such materials to a National Instructional Materials Access Center ("Center") (see below) as electronic files in the prescribed national electronic file format. Such contracts, which would be entered into and take effect not later than three (3) years after enactment, must address the provision of both pupil and requested teacher editions of the materials in electronic files suitable for conversion into specialized formats.

The provisions regarding publisher obligations would preempt any inconsistent requirements of any state or local government regarding a publisher's provision of print instructional materials in the form of electronic files for conversion into specialized formats, except that nothing in the IMAA would impair the right of any state or local educational agency to enter into a contract with the publisher for the purpose of obtaining such electronic files directly from the publisher, rather than obtaining them from the National Instructional Materials Access Center (see below) which would otherwise receive them from the publisher and make them available to the agency.

SECTION 5 - NATIONAL INSTRUCTIONAL MATERIALS ACCESS CENTER

Not later than two (2) years after enactment, IMAA would require the Secretary to establish a "National Instructional Materials Access Center" to coordinate the acquisition and distribution of instructional materials provided by publishers in the prescribed national electronic file format. A contract to operate the Center, renewable on a biannual basis, would be competitively awarded by the Secretary to a nonprofit organization or consortium of such organizations.

SECTION 6 - CONVERSION CAPACITY-BUILDING GRANTS

These provisions authorize the Secretary to award grants to eligible entities to provide or improve their capacities to prepare or obtain instructional materials in specialized formats as provided under IMAA. They also authorize federal appropriations for this purpose.

SECTION 7 - ENFORCEMENT

These provisions do not create new enforcement mechanisms, but make the rights, remedies and procedures available to children and parents under the IDEA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 also available to children and parents aggrieved by violations of the IMAA by any state or local educational agency, without limiting any right, remedy, or procedure otherwise available under federal law that "provides greater or equal protection for the rights of blind or other persons with print disabilities."

SECTION 8 - RELATIONSHIP TO SECTION 121 OF THE COPYRIGHT ACT

These provisions clarify that, for purposes of the IMAA, a publisher's provision of print instructional materials to a state or local educational agency in the national electronic file format, and reproduction or distribution of such materials in a "large print" format by a government agency or nonprofit organization whose primary mission is to provide specialized services to blind persons or others with disabilities, will be considered non-infringing uses of such materials under the Chafee Amendment to the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. Section 121.

SECTION 9 - USE OF FUNDS

This provision requires that any funds made available under the IMAA must be used to supplement, rather than to supplant, any other funds available to carry out the requirements of the IMAA.

SECTION 10 - RESEARCH AND REPORTS

This provision requires the Secretary to research the effect of the IMAA on the timely delivery of accessible instructional materials to the students who require them, and to report to the appropriate Congressional committees on the results of such research no later than three (3) years after enactment.

SECTION 11 - DEFINITIONS

These provisions define key terms as they are used in the IMAA, including "print disability," "instructional materials," "national electronic file format," and "specialized format," among others.

  1. "Print disabilities" means individuals who are eligible or who may qualify in accordance with the Act entitled "An Act to provide books for the adult blind," (2 U.S.C. 135a), to receive books and other publications produced in specialized formats.
  2. "Instructional materials" means printed basal textbooks and related core materials that are written and published primarily for use in elementary and secondary school instruction and are required by a state or local educational agency for use in the classroom, including specifically-requested teachers' editions of such materials.
  3. "National electronic file format" means a well-organized, structured, and marked-up electronic file which is suitable for efficient conversion into specialized formats and which is in conformance with the technical standards to be issued pursuant to section 5 of this Act.
  4. "Center" means the National Instructional Materials Access Center established by the Secretary under section 5.
  5. "Secretary" means the Secretary of Education.
  6. "Specialized format," with respect to instructional materials, means braille, synthesized speech, digital text, digital audio, or large print.
  7. "State educational agency" and "local educational agency" have the meanings given those terms in section 9101 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965.

SECTION 12 - PROVISIONS

This provision establishes that the IMAA will take effect upon enactment, and apply only to instructional materials that are copyrighted and published after the date on which the technical standards for the national electronic files format take effect..

Prepared by: AFB Textbooks and Instructional Materials Solutions Forum
Legislative and Policy-Making Work Group
www.afb.org/education.asp and www.afb.org/textbooks.asp

Mark Richert, AER and Mary Ann Siller, AFB

The purpose of the Act is to improve access to printed instructional materials used by elementary and secondary school students who are blind, as well as other students who have print disabilities. This will be achieved through the creation of a system for acquiring and distributing publishers' electronic files of textbooks and other instructional materials, so that these materials can be made available in braille, synthesized speech, digital text, digital audio, or large print.

National Standard for Electronic Files and Advisory Committee

Under the bill, the Secretary of Education in conjunction with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) of the Department of Commerce will adopt a national electronic file format standard to be used by publishers in the preparation of structured and fully marked-up electronic files suitable for efficient conversion into specialized formats, such as braille, synthesized speech, digital text, digital audio books, or large print. This standard will be based upon the recommendations of an advisory committee comprised of representatives of all relevant players in the publishing and specialized format production process, consumer groups, and many others. This standard will preempt previous state file format requirements, but it will only take effect two years after the standard is published as the final rule. These standards will be required by the bill to be in conformance with existing and emerging technologies and publishing methods. The emerging technology is building upon the American National Standards Institute/National Information Standards Organization (ANSI/NISO) "tags" in Extensible Markup Language (XML). However, progress must continue to be made to incorporate the ANSI/NISO format with XML. Doing so will ensure the highest degree of structure possible for the files which publishers will be required to prepare. In addition, the bill will mandate that, after two years from the publication of the final standards, any contracts or other mechanisms used by states and local education agencies in the acquisition of instructional materials must require publishers to transmit a compliant file to the national repository (see Role of the National Instructional Materials Access Center).

Finally, the bill will call for the U.S. Department of Education to publish the proposed standards in the Federal Register six months from the date of appointing the Advisory Committee. From the time the proposed standards appear in the Federal Register, the public will have one month to comment. The final rule will be given within two months from the end of the comment period.

The U.S. Department of Education will convene an advisory committee to help determine the specifications to be used by publishers in delivering electronic files. The Advisory Committee will be appointed three months from the date of enactment of the Act. It will consist of publishers of instructional materials, producers of adaptive technology and materials in specialized formats, representatives of blind consumer organizations, representatives of general and special education programs, developers of accessibility and publishing software and supporting technologies, representatives of information technology standards organizations, representatives of instructional materials resource centers with substantial experience in file format preparation with braille software conversion technology, and representatives of other agencies or organizations that the U.S. Department of Education determines to be appropriate.

Transition Period

The U.S. Department of Education will adopt the final standards identified by the Advisory Committee and publish those final standards in the Federal Register within one year of enactment of the Act. Three years from the date of enactment of the Act, the final standards will supercede any state or local laws or regulations calling upon publishers to provide files in different formats. This means that states will no longer be allowed to "require" publishers to produce on demand file formats other than the format standard published by the U.S. Department of Education. Prior to the publication of the standards, existing state requirements regarding file format will remain in effect. The new national file format standard will only take effect three years from the date of enactment of the Act. Basically, this means there will be two years from the final published rule of the standards for publishers to comply.

Role of the National Instructional Materials Access Center

Most jurisdictions, especially smaller jurisdictions and those which have no current legal requirements on publishers to provide electronic files, feel strongly that a national repository center is necessary as the only sure hope of prompt access to electronic data files. The value and necessity of a central clearinghouse entity to receive and maintain the publishers' electronic files is overwhelming. Publishers certainly will not want to be required to respond to requests for files from numerous individual state and local agencies. Congress especially will not look favorably at providing funding for such a system which is duplicating efforts.

Funds will be made available to the U.S. Department of Education to provide funding for the National Instructional Materials Access Center. Through a competitive award, the U.S. Department of Education will enter into contract to operate the Center with a nonprofit organization, or consortium of organizations, with substantial experience in the production of specialized formats within two years of the date of enactment of the Act. The contract will be renewed on a biannual basis. The Center will act as a national clearinghouse (repository) for the acquisition and distribution of instructional materials produced in electronic format. Three years after enactment of the Act, publishers' new copyright files will be deposited in the Center.

The bill will define the Center to be responsible for approving authorized entities, assessing the needs of the authorized entities, retrieving files from publishers, cataloging and storage of the files, and prompt and efficient distribution of the files to authorized entities, among other areas. The bill will be careful to define authorized entities in the same way the term is defined by the Chafee Amendment to the Copyright Act which eliminated the need for specialized format producers and others to obtain permission from copyright owners prior to the reproduction and distribution of their works. Under the amendment, an authorized entity is defined as a nonprofit organization or a governmental agency that has a primary mission to provide specialized services relating to training, education, or adaptive reading or information access needs of blind or other persons with disabilities. This definition is extremely broad and will guarantee the availability of publishers' standardized files to all parties with a primary mission to produce accessible materials.

State/Local Procedures to Ensure Equal Access to Textbooks and Instructional Materials

A provision in the Act describes how state and local education agencies receiving federal financial assistance under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) will be responsible to develop and implement a statewide plan within two years of enactment of the Act. The statewide plan will ensure that printed instructional materials required for classroom use in elementary and secondary schools are made available in specialized formats to individuals with disabilities at the same time such materials are provided to individuals without such disabilities.

The statewide plan will be unique to each state. However, at a minimum the statewide plan shall designate the entity responsible for collecting and maintaining data of the students who are blind or others with print disabilities who require instructional materials in specialized formats; establish the methods and procedures by which these materials will be provided in the appropriate media/medium; identify the resources available for production of instructional materials in specialized formats; establish procedures that local education agencies and any other agency with responsibility for carrying out the education of children with disabilities will follow to ensure the timely delivery of instructional materials; provide assurances that contracts with publishers meet the requirements specified in the Act; and provide for periodic evaluation to determine if the instructional materials are being provided at the same time as students without disabilities receive their instructional materials.

As part of any instructional materials adoption process, procurement contract, or other practice or instrument used for the purchase of instructional materials, state and local education agencies will ensure that there will be a written contract with publishers. This contract will define that publishers will provide electronic files of such materials in the national electronic file format, along with a print copy of such materials, and these files will be sent to the national repository (see Role of the National Instructional Materials Access Center).

In addition, the contract will specify the files must correspond to the most recent pupil edition and be sent in thirty days. If such materials are altered prior to use in the classroom and after the contract was ratified, a complete record of the changes and corrections will be sent to the Center. In the contractual agreement, the state or local educational agency may also request to directly obtain copies of the electronic files prepared and transmitted to the Center. This contractual agreement will take effect three years after the enactment of the Act.

As proposed, a jurisdiction's federal dollars will not be at risk simply because a particular student's book is not ready on the first day of class. However, the bill will, for the first time in our nation's history, require unequivocally that the federal government shall not offer federal financial sponsorship to states or agencies which do not work aggressively to ensure equal access to educational materials for blind or visually impaired children.

Definition of Instructional Materials

In the bill, the term "instructional materials" will mean written and published textbooks and related core materials (including those specific materials which shall be used by teachers for classroom instruction) required by a state or local education agency for use in elementary and secondary school instruction, including specifically requested teachers' editions of such materials.

The bill's coverage is limited strictly to printed instructional materials in K-12. This definition will include math and science materials (there is no distinction between "literary" and "non-literary" materials in this definition).

Finally, nothing in this definition, or in the text of the bill, can be used to argue that states are barred from enacting requirements on publishers regarding access to multimedia instructional materials, such as CD-ROMs or other non-print materials.

Grants for Capacity Building

This area will provide for grants to state or local educational agencies or nonprofit organizations with a primary mission to provide specialized services relating to training, education, or adaptive reading or the information access needs of blind persons or other persons with print disabilities. The grants will strengthen the technical assistance and training capacity across the United States.

Enforcement

The Act provides that the rights, remedies and procedures available to children and parents under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (as amended) and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (as amended) will also be available under this Act to children and parents aggrieved by violations of this Act by any state or local educational agency. Also, this Act does not limit any right, remedy, or procedure otherwise available under federal law which provided greater or equal protection for the rights of blind or other persons with print disabilities.

Relationship to Section 121 of the Copyright Act

These provisions clarify that, for purposes of the IMAA, a publisher's provision of print instructional materials to a state or local educational agency in the national electronic file format, and reproduction or distribution of such materials in a "large print" format by a government agency or nonprofit organization whose primary mission is to provide specialized services to blind persons or others with disabilities, will be considered noninfringing uses of such materials under the Chafee Amendment to the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. Section 121

Use of Funds

This provision requires that any funds made available under the IMAA must be used to supplement, rather than to supplant, any other funds available to carry out the requirements of the IMAA.

Research and Reports

This provision requires the Secretary to research the effect of the IMAA on the timely delivery of accessible instructional materials to the students who require them, and to report to the appropriate Congressional committees on the results of such research no later than three (3) years after enactment.

Time Line

  • Legislation signed into law
  • 3 months from date of enactment: Appointment of Advisory Committee
  • 6 months from date of appointing the Advisory Committee: Proposed standards published in the Federal Register
  • 1 year from enactment of the Act: Final file format standards are established
  • 2 years from date of enactment: Access Center is established
  • 2 years from date of enactment: States must have a written statewide plan in place
  • 3 years from date of enactment: Publishers must comply with NIST standards