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AFB Textbooks and Instructional Materials Solutions Forum

The sixth annual meeting of the AFB Textbooks and Instructional Materials Solutions Forum opened with a welcome from project coordinator Mary Ann Siller, Director of the National Education Program for AFB and introductions were made of on-site and teleconference participants.

  • The first agenda item, discussion of Instructional Materials Accessibility Policy, was led by Mark Richert, Executive Director of AER and facilitator of the Solution Forum's Legislative and Policy-Making Work Group. Richert noted that the original plan for separate legislation addressing instructional materials accessibility had no chance of passage outside of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and it was important to incorporate major principles of the original bill into IDEA. The House version of IDEA was passed in April 2003. The expectation is that the Senate version would pass the full Senate. At the time of the October meeting, the Senate has not scheduled their bill for a full committee vote. Unfortunately, because of significant differences in the versions of IDEA, it was expected that conference committee members will have a long road ahead to work out differences and create the final IDEA bill.

    Issues related specifically to the key principles from the Instructional Materials Accessibility Act (IMAA) which must be addressed by the conference committee include the need for a central file repository for electronic files and the standard file format to be used by publishers. While there is no longer a mandate for a "state plan" to address these issues, the Senate bill calls for coordination among entities within the state to facilitate production of accessible materials. It was asked that we continue to communicate our messages to legislators.

    The conference committee will be chosen after the Senate has taken their IDEA bill to full committee for a vote. Once the conference committee people have been chosen, it was requested that all SF participants contact key members of the conference committee and keep in frequent contact with them to remind them of the importance of the provisions which address the key principles for instructional materials accessibility. However, the legislative work group suggested that we should contact Senators right now to thank them for their help in providing for both key principles from the IMAA and preparing them to be champions of our points surrounding access to textbooks and instructional materials when IDEA moves forward in 2004. For updated information about the legislative process and committee members go to www.afb.org/idea.asp

  • The next agenda item provided a review of local efforts within states to develop networks which can address legislative issues at a local level. Several state networks developed letter-writing campaigns; one state network coordinator drafted a list of questions for parents, students, and others to discuss in their contacts with legislators; another sent an initial letter to legislators and followed up with a postcard listing the important bullets about the issue.

  • An update was provided on the National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard. Skip Stahl with the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) noted that the U.S. Department of Education assigned them the task of identifying the recommendations for a national instructional materials accessibility standard (national file format). At the direction of and in consultation with the U.S. Department of Education, the National Center for Accessing the General Curriculum (NCAC) that is part of CAST, in collaboration with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) at the Department of Commerce, assembled a Technical Panel consisting of 40 members representing consumers, technical experts, and feasibility experts (see www.cast.org). The final document will be sent to the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) in November 2003. Skip commented that textbook publishers have some issues with the standard but there was an expectation that those could be resolved. Input from the Solutions Forum's Joint Technology Task Force was considered in developing the voluntary standard. The result of the voluntary standard would be that publishers would provide digital files with standard markup which could then be manipulated by vendors such as Instructional Materials Resource Centers, APH or RFB&D to add features needed for production of materials for students who are visually impaired.

    The report also explains that the panel feels that a centralized national repository is essential to ensuring the delivery of consistent, high quality accessible materials to blind, low vision and print-disabled students.

  • Because media stories often get the attention of legislators, AFB's Communications Department, Governmental Relations Group and National Education Program collaborated with a media project. The IDEA Media project puts emphasis on media outreach which can tell the story of the needs of students with visual impairment. AFB staff, Carrie Fernandez and Paul Schroeder, provided the background of the project and asked for more local attention to media stories. They requested the AFB Solutions Forum stakeholders to become involved in getting stories out to the media. The AFB IDEA Media Project is available to provide assistance in coordinating such efforts.
  • Information was provided by work group leaders Marie Amerson (Communication and Collaboration) and Mark Richert (Legislative and Policy-Making) on ideas for the development of model strategies for statewide coordination for delivering accessible textbooks to students who are visually impaired. The information was developed as part of a work group session at a previous Solutions Forum and identified the stakeholders who should be involved as well as some of the components that should be in place.

  • Various updates were also provided to the AFB Solutions Forum

    • Joint Technology Task Force

    • Textbooks and Instructional Materials Tool Kit (2nd Printing - June 2003)

    • Training Seminar for Braille Transcribers and an Upcoming AFB Web-based Seminar

    • Braille Textbook Transcriber Community College Courses

    • National Braille Association Textbook Formatting Course

    • Tactile Graphics Fact Sheet

    • AFB and Verizon National Campaign for Literacy, Textbooks, Transcribers, and Technology - Call to Action (www.afb.org/verizon.asp)

  • AFB Solutions Forum on-site participants divided into two work groups to draft model implementation strategies for states with state-adoption policies and those without state adoption of textbooks. The work groups compiled lists of concerns and questions and it was noted that there are similarities with the issues that would be presented to the different adoption model states. The statements will be complied and be presented at the next AFB Solutions Forum meeting on March 4, 2004 meeting in Washington, D.C. The AFB Solutions Forum will work to create a model framework that state leaders can use to develop implementation strategies for providing accessible textbooks to students who are visually impaired. (The issues identified in the review will be condensed and categorized at some point in the near future.)