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For Immediate Release 
Contact: Mary Ann Siller
214-352-7222 

http://www.afb.org/education.asp 

Children who are blind or visually impaired have the same right to a quality education as any other child. This right is guaranteed by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Unfortunately, students who are blind or visually impaired routinely do not receive their classroom materials at the same time as their sighted classmates. Braille, large print, or audio recorded instructional materials often arrive long after classes begin or, too frequently, not at all. The challenge confronting these students is one of competing on a par with sighted classmates, but without the benefit of equal and timely access to textbooks or instructional materials.

In October 1998, the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) initiated a national campaign to define the potential solutions to alleviate this challenge facing students with visual impairments. The AFB Textbooks and Instructional Materials Solutions Forum, a collaborative national effort on the part of agencies and organizations that produce and distribute textbooks and other instructional materials, works to ensure equal access to instructional materials for students who are blind or visually impaired. AFB Solutions Forum participants include textbook publishers; educators; access technology specialists; producers of braille, large print and recorded textbooks; parents of children who are blind or visually impaired; and adults who are blind or visually impaired.

The AFB Solutions Forum is a direct result of the issues identified in the National Agenda for the Education of Children and Youths with Visual Impairments, Including Those with Multiple Disabilities. Goal # 7 of the National Agenda verifies that timely access to textbooks and instructional materials in the appropriate media is one of the eight most critical national issues affecting the education of students with visual impairments. With the technology available today, advance planning, and timely distribution of these tools for learning, barriers to a student's progress can be eliminated.

The AFB Solutions Forum will address:

  • Lack of standardization of electronic file formats provided by textbook publishers
  • Inaccessibility of multimedia textbooks, especially those delivered via the Internet and CD-ROM
  • Variation in state textbook regulations regarding accessible instructional materials
  • High expense of producing specialized materials and the lack of fiscal incentives to develop new technologies
  • Shortage of qualified braille transcribers and production resources
  • Communication and collaboration barriers, including duplication of efforts

"The AFB Solutions Forum is a critical step toward the elimination of the inequities faced by people who are blind or visually impaired," said AFB president Carl R. Augusto. "In making school materials accessible, it will help level the playing field for blind and visually impaired children so that they have the same opportunities to learn and succeed as their sighted classmates."

AFB Textbook and Instructional Materials Solutions Forum partners include:

  • Alternate Text Production Center of the California Community Colleges
  • American Council of the Blind (ACB)
  • American Foundation for the Blind (AFB)
  • American Printing House for the Blind (APH)
  • Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER)
  • Association of American Publishers (AAP)
  • Association of Instructional Resource Centers for the Visually Handicapped (AIRC)
  • Association of State Education Consultants for the Visually Impaired (ASECVI)
  • Braille Authority of North America (BANA)
  • Braille Institute of America, Inc
  • California Department of Education, Clearinghouse for Specialized Media and Technology
  • California Transcribers and Educators of the Visually Handicapped (CTEVH)
  • Center for Applied Special Technology, Inc. (CAST)
  • Computer Application Specialties
  • Council for Exceptional Children, Division on Visual Impairments (CEC-DVI)
  • Council of Schools for the Blind (COSB)
  • Digital Audio-Based Information System Consortium (DAISY)
  • Duxbury Systems, Inc.
  • Glencoe/McGraw-Hill
  • Hadley School for the Blind (HSB)
  • Harcourt School Publishers
  • Helen Keller Services for the Blind
  • Houghton Mifflin Co.
  • Library of Congress National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS)
  • Louisiana School for the Visually Impaired (LSVI)
  • Macmillan/McGraw-Hill
  • McDougal Littell
  • *National Association for Parents of Children with Visual Impairments, Inc. (NAPVI)
  • National Braille Association (NBA)
  • National Braille Press (NBP)
  • National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM) at WGBH
  • New Mexico State University, Department of Mathematical Sciences
  • Northwest Vista College (San Antonio, Texas)
  • Pearson Education
  • Pearson Learning
  • Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic (RFB&D)
  • Scholastic Inc.
  • Scott Foresman
  • TechAdapt, Inc
  • Texas Education Agency (TEA)
  • Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI)
  • Visual Aid Volunteers (VAV)

The American Foundation for the Blind-the organization to which Helen Keller devoted more than 40 years of her life-is a national, nonprofit organization whose mission is to enable people who are blind or visually impaired to achieve equality of access and opportunity that will ensure freedom of choice in their lives. Headquartered in New York City, AFB maintains offices in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, and San Francisco, and a governmental relations office in Washington, DC.

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October, 2001