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Phil Hatlen, Superintendent
Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired

What is it that I would like to share with you about full inclusion of students with disabilities? Is it my frustration that a movement is sweeping the country that does not take into consideration the individual needs of children? Is it my fear that some students with disabilities will be tragically "mis-served"?Is it my concern that a philosophical position that sounds so humanitarily "correct" has depersonalized services to children with disabilities?

No, what I want to share with you today is my enthusiastic support for an addition to the array of service delivery options available for students with disabilities. Responsible inclusion is an appropriate and effective service for some students with disabilities. If its momentum continues, and it is carefully defined, responsible inclusion has the potential to move literally thousands of children with disabilities out of inappropriate facilities and services and into educational settings offering dignity and opportunities to truly learn. I applaud the leaders in the "inclusion" movement and offer my services in order to assure that this new educational option is appropriately used by students who can truly benefit from it.

But, alas, my colleagues who are the leaders in the full inclusion movement have made a serious, but correctable, error. They use terms such as "...all means all...", and "...just do it!!...".Their position is that we no longer must seriously consider the needs of each individual child when making a decision about educational placement. They believe that placement transcends needs. They have generalized successes with some students with disabilities to all students with all disabilities. They make no distinction between the educational needs of a child who is deaf, a child with cerebral palsy, a child who is learning disabled, or a child who is blind. It is as though the type of disability has no effect on educational needs and services. They tell us that disability labels are only appropriate for medical reasons. They believe that all educational planning and delivery of service can ignore the type of disability and concentrate on needs. 

Let me dispel that myth immediately. Some of my colleagues in special education are proud to point out that disability labels are almost a thing of the past. They argue that labels stigmatize children, that they are simply medical labels and have no relationship to educational need. This is not true. To avoid the label "blind" or "deaf" is to seriously stigmatize children who have an obvious disability, and who need to learn to live proudly and with dignity with the disability. Avoidance of using the label is to make children wonder if there is something terribly wrong with being blind or being deaf. If people won't even use the word, what message is delivered? Secondly, I contend, as do all of my colleagues, that blindness and visual impairment are not only medical labels, they are educational labels. All children with visual impairments share similar needs because of their disability. Loss of vision has a direct and often profound effect on learning, and this impact can be generalized across all children with visual impairments. Use of the label is fundamental to delivering appropriate educational services.

Educators of students who are deaf have made a strong case for the communication needs of the students whom they serve. These needs are so intensive that any decision about inclusion of students who are deaf must be made with extreme caution. For many years, I have thought about the equivalent for children with visual impairments to that of children who are deaf with regard to communication. I am convinced that the answer is "experiential". How much fundamental knowledge does the child with a visual impairment have regarding her world? Often, the world of the child with a visual impairment is the length of her arms. Think about this fact. Consider the effect on casual, incidental learning. Consider the profound effect that a visual impairment has on growth and learning. Think about the capability of a full inclusion setting to offer experiential learning.

Educators of students with visual impairments pioneered inclusive education. In a small scale, we began early in the 20th century, then expanded rapidly and dramatically in the 1950s and 1960s.This is long before other areas of special education began exploring ways in which children with disabilities could be included more fully and appropriately in regular classrooms. Many years ago we learned some vital lessons about inclusion. Some students benefited from inclusive education from the outset of their education; others needed various amounts of preparation before they could benefit from inclusion; still others were best served in non-inclusive settings for educational purposes so that they would have the best possible chance for inclusion as adults.

I know with no doubt, with no hesitation, that full inclusion will not appropriately serve all students with visual impairments. I know this because I know a great deal about the educational needs of children who are blind or visual impaired. My colleagues who are most actively promoting full inclusion know, just as surely, that inclusion works for students with retardation, with students with severe and profound disabilities, and with some children with other disabilities. I acknowledge and admire their understanding and expertise with children who have disabilities that they are knowledgeable about. I do not question their findings and their positions. However, I fail to understand how these good, well-meaning people can take their findings on certain populations of students with disabilities and generalize them to all populations. If any of you are present today, I ask that you stop doing this, and that you grant me my expertise as I acknowledge yours.

Having established this difference of opinion within the ranks of special education, let me emphasize to you that full inclusion is not for all students with disabilities. And beware of those who say it is. They do not have the knowledge or expertise to hold this belief.

Let me share with you some things about the educational needs of students who are visually impaired, and I suggest to you that you consider the application of what I say to other populations.

The population of blind and visually impaired students is very heterogeneous. Some are totally blind; others have good, useful vision. Some are only visually impaired; others have additional complex, challenging disabilities. Some are visually impaired from birth; other lose vision later in their school years. Some live in urban areas; others live in rural parts of the country. Some live in school districts that have extensive resources for education of students with visual impairments; others live in school districts with no resources. The differences go on and on...

How would you propose to meet the educational needs of this population with one placement option?  It cannot be done. 

I mentioned earlier that we pioneered inclusive education.  We were placing children who were blind or visually impaired in regular classrooms in large numbers as early as 1955.  We naively began this process by assuming that if we provided adaptations for academic learning, and if we spent a short time preparing students to use these adaptations, then students with visual impairments could have all of their educational needs met in the regular classroom.  We were wrong, and we paid the price for that error as we watched helplessly as hundreds of the products of our early efforts in inclusion became unemployed social isolates as young adults.

Among the lessons we learned about inclusion were:

  1. Even though we were good at adapting the academic curriculum for accessibility by students with visual impairments, the use of that curriculum in the regular classroom needed careful introduction and orchestration by us.
  2. Social interaction skills are not learned by imitation or by proximity to students who are not disabled.  Most of the students we placed in inclusive settings were social isolates.   
  3. Beginning Braille reading did not lend itself well to curriculum adaptation.
  4. Many students with visual impairments could learn academic subjects in inclusion settings.  If prepared for using adapted curriculum, there is no reason why the child with a visual impairment cannot learn academic subjects in a regular classroom along-side sighted peers.
  5. Students with visual impairments have a second set of educational needs.  These are now referred to as "disability-specific needs".  It is inappropriate and impossible to provide instruction for meeting these needs in the regular classroom. Therefore, significant amounts of time must be spent meeting these needs outside the regular classroom.

From these findings, my profession has developed the following positions:

  1. "Inclusive education" is a new label to define a particular educational placement for students with disabilities.  The profession of education for students with visual impairments is pleased that this placement option has been added to the list of options.  Some students with visual impairments, at some times in their lives, will benefit significantly from placement in an inclusive setting.
  2. In order to meet the complex, diverse educational needs of students who are visually impaired, a full array of placement and service delivery options must be available.
  3. There is no best educational program for students with visual impairments.  There is a best program for an individual student at a particular time in her life.

So, let's accept "full inclusion" for what it is: one more viable option in a full array of placement options for students with disabilities.


1999-2000 Regular Sessions


April 12, 1999

Introduced by Sens. MAZIARZ, MARCHI – read twice and ordered printed, and when printed to be committed to the Committee on Education AN ACT in relation to enacting the blind student’s literacy rights and education act


Section 1. Short title. This act shall be known and may be cited as the “blind student’s literacy rights and education act”.

§ 2. Definitions. As used in this act:

1. “Visually impaired student” is a student with an impairment in vision that, even with correction, adversely affects a student’s educational performance. The term includes both partial sight and blindness.”

2. “Braille” means the system of reading and writing through touch commonly known as standard English Braille.

3. “Individualized education program,” has the meaning provided in section 614(d) of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (20 U.S.C. section 14(d)). The Committee on Special Education (“CSE”) has the meaning provided in section 4402 of New York State Education Law.

§ 3. Individualized education program. In developing the individualized education program in the case of a student who is visually impaired, the school district shall make provisions for instruction in Braille and the use of Braille unless the CSE determines, after an evaluation of the student’s reading and writing skills, needs, and appropriate reading and writing media, including an evaluation of the student’s future needs for instruction in Braille or the use of Braille, that such instruction or use is not appropriate for the student. (Note: Nothing in this section shall require the exclusive use of Braille if other special education services are appropriate to the student’s educational needs; provided, however, that the provisions of such other appropriate services shall not preclude Braille use or instruction.)

§ 4. Standards of competency and instruction. Instruction in Braille reading and writing shall be sufficient to enable each blind or visually impaired student to communicate effectively and efficiently with the same level of proficiency expected of the student’s peers of comparable ability and grade level. The student’s individualized education program shall specify:

1. under present levels of performance, the results obtained from the evaluations required under section three of this act;

2. if instruction in and the use of Braille is recommended, list measurable annual goals including benchmarks or short-term instructional objectives;

3. the date on which Braille instruction will commence;

4. the frequency, location and duration of such services.

§ 5. Certification. Braille instruction shall be provided by a certified teacher of the blind and partially sighted pursuant to Part 80 of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education.

§ 6. This act shall take effect immediately.


Same as A 3606-A

ON FILE: Education

TITLE . . . . . Makes provision with respect to providing appropriate educational services to students who are visually impaired and training teachers in standard English Braille 



PURPOSE OR GENERAL IDEA OF BILL: To ensure that Braille instruction would be made available to any child requesting it; the certification of teachers of the blind in Braille.

SUMMARY OF PROVISIONS: Section 1 of the bill is the title. Section 2 of the bill sets forth definitions. Section 3 of the bill requires the department of education to make provisions for instruction in Braille and the use of Braille unless the IEP (Individualized Education Program) Team determines, upon evaluation of the child, that such instruction is not appropriate for the child. Section 4 of the bill sets standards of competency and instruction for the blind or visually impaired child. Section 5 of the bill requires teachers certified in the education of the blind and visually impaired to demonstrate competence in reading and writing Braille. Section 6 is the effective date.

JUSTIFICATION: It is generally agreed that literacy is the single most important quality which one must possess in order to become successful in our society. The need to be able to read is as essential for someone who is visually impaired as it is for someone who is sighted. Currently, the teaching of Braille in our public schools is being ignored or discouraged. Blind children must be equipped with all the tools necessary for their ultimate competition in the job market and the community.



EFFECTIVE DATE : Immediately

Please send comments to Mary Ann Siller.

For more informaiton about the NFF

Guiding Principles

  1. Digital content must be complete (i.e., graphics & tables should be included)
  2. Digital texts will be used and viewed interactively - students should be able to access the digital materials in the same manner that non-print disabled students access a print text
  3. The NFF should not produce barriers to "value added" features
  4. The NFF should accommodate all fields of study, including math, science and foreign language
  5. It must be possible to drop in/link to other technologies (e.g., video clips)
  6. The NFF should be sufficiently robust to be rendered into multiple formats (digital book, Braille, etc.)
  7. One large file format that has teacher's edition, student edition, and other forms as well - allow for multiple rendering alternatives


Visual Representations

  1. Font should be scalable
  2. Flow should be scalable without losing ability to reference original text points of references (page numbers, paragraphs)
  3. Text box access
  4. Ways to access tables and charts

Auditory Representations

  1. Set voice to read properly with TTS
  2. Auditory and visual materials should be synchronized
  3. Use of sound to distinguish items in a list
  4. Provide verbal emphasis - auditory bold
  5. Change of voice for change of speaker
  6. Abbreviations, acronyms, etc. must be spoken properly

Tactile Representations

  1. Easily translatable to Braille
  2. Support for character sets for foreign languages
  3. Logical representation of information to ensure that the meaning of the text in the context of the visual cues is represented (e.g., fractions, mathematical equations)
  4. Semantics of visual representation should be included in the content - e.g., this is bold and is linked to a glossary
  5. Text box access
  6. Access to tables and charts

Cognitive Representations

  1. Tagging for "value added" options (e.g., sign language clips, convertible text, highlighting, linking)
  2. Consider ESL LD issues such as dictionary supports that consider level and selection of language (might be signed) - need to allow individual word selection



  1. Graphical material is important to learning, and includes: photos, images, charts, flow charts, tables
  2. Break down flow chart into a linear stream
  3. Tables should be treated more as "cells" rather than graphics
  4. Access to graphics should not be restricted to tactile or text representations - multiple alternative representations should be available
  5. Rules and standards for how tags are presented and how formatted for ALL publishers
  6. Communication process with editors for content - to make sure that the graphical representations are rendered as intended
  7. Representation should convey whatever information that is intended to be provided through the graphics
  8. Multi-modal information - convey through synchronized audio, tactile, text
  9. Animations, alternate multimedia sources to provide access to the graphical information - prototyping machine code
  10. Multiple layers (graduated types of information) with different descriptions of the same graphic - side by side with student control
  11. Graphical information from the publishers should contain not just the graphic but some additional information such as producer notes or long description
  12. Layers should include descriptions that can provide explanation of what is happening in the picture
  13. Different descriptions/modes for different implementations of the file format (Braille, large print, talking book, digital book, refreshable Braille)
  14. SMIL will allow for use of multiple representations
  15. Overlays to show successive layers of detail
  16. Markup languages exist, but tools do not - ways to take information and repurpose it
  17. Format should preserve the intended viewing order of the images
  18. Tie graphics to the text (order/location)
  19. Mechanism to identify which elements of graphic are salient
  20. Ability to access text that appears in the graphic
  21. Remove the middle man as much as possible - closer to the source by people with training
  22. Technology should assuage the "Extraneous Art" issue - the further away move from the source, the more room for mistake
  23. Appropriate use of graphics - logical representation of the graphic - make sure that the information conveys the point of the graphic

Visual Representations

  1. Graphics in color and black & white
  2. All graphics should be high contrast, preferably vector graphics, rather than bitmap
    1. Need a PNG or JPG formatted image that can survive 10X magnification (maybe TIF or SVG).
    2. Some prefer TIF for high resolution.
  3. Ability to drill down with SVG.
  4. Ability to change resolution, high contrast, colors to enable use of graphics
  5. Enlarging/simplifying - look at quality of photograph, color contrast
  6. Provide choice between scaled text alone or scaled text magnified image
  7. Color information - how to convey when the color is of pedagogical importance (fill patterns)

Digitized photos

  1. Ability to integrate video clips and animation
  2. Graphics should have some link to the text
  3. Ability to freeze image in a location and flow text by it
  4. Mechanism to know that the graphic is present, and ability to jump to the graphic, move it, transform
  5. Alt text

Auditory Representations

  1. Encode the semantics of the graphic
  2. Ways to identify which tags are superfluous (can remove them)
  3. Descriptions that can provide explanation of what is happening in the picture
  4. Mechanism to allow audio to be provided (captioning should also be provided)
  5. Visual cues need to be incorporated into the text

Tactile Representations

  1. Tactile images: three dimensional (topographical images - connect to machine that could form three dimensional representation of image - refreshable)
  2. Layering of graphic to allow for simplification of the graphic for tactile representation of critical elements
  3. Files should be in a format that can be disseminated to other devices to display/print locally
  4. Tactile graphics coding should support a variety of methods for displaying
  5. Visual cues need to be incorporated into the text
  6. Differentiate between content graphics and navigational graphics
  7. Style - look and feel by brand - may be important to preserve the style
  8. Coding should allow for reviewing of tactile graphics in real time - format should be sufficiently robust to be extensible
  9. Braille representations should include the data representing the bar chart or graph
  10. Encode the semantics of the graphic

Cognitive Representations

  1. Embedding levels of skills
  2. Not only moving from graphic/photographic to text, but text to graphic/photographic (flexibility, for students with cognitive disabilities)
  3. Layering, vector graphics - to be able to drill down to simplified version, or to build complexity for a student to follow along
  4. Cognitive issues - graphic images in place of text


Discussion introduction & framing statements by George Kerscher, Michael Moodie and James Pritchett, of the ANSI/NISO Z39.86 Maintenance Committee: Review of Z39.86 Document Navigation Features List from the Digital Talking Book Standards Committee (see

Global Navigation


  1. Tagging for headings, paragraphs, sidebars
  2. Books divided into levels (chapters, sections, page, etc.)
  3. May need summary and topic sentence tags added to DTD
  4. Distinguish logical, semantic, and visual presentation elements - be able to cue to the correct places in a text
  5. Pedagogical identifier for elements (graphics, sidebars, charts, etc.)
  6. Order should be set up as should be read - linear presentation of information
  7. Books are currently used side-by-side with traditional print books - must be an ability built into the file format to enable students to identify traditional print page numbers in the digital text and jump to that location in the digital text
  8. Points of reference consistent between digital and print materials
  9. Incorporating thumbnails - useful as a locator guide, to identify location on a page, for students with reading difficulties (overview information)
  10. Ways to identify which tags are superfluous and remove them, e.g., to strip out the graphics or the text
Visual Representations
  1. Way to read headings before digging into body of text
  2. Ability to alter linear sequences
  3. Auditory Representations
  4. Tactile Representations
  5. Format issues - directions to the reader in Braille
  6. Cognitive Representations
  7. Search for synonyms
  8. Search for items, whether or not they appear on the screen

Local Navigation


  1. Access to text alone is insufficient: format, tracking back to print text must be built into the format
  2. Rules for content in the front (visual or auditory)
  3. Ability to do "look backs" to particular places in a text (both visual and audio)
  4. Cut and paste ability (both visual and audio) for notetaking, doing student exercises and class work
  5. Once reading, ability to read just topic sentences
  6. Form interactivity (workbooks, exercises at the end of the book - devise ways to interpret the forms for use)

Visual Representations

  1. Ability to manipulate how much text is viewable at a time
  2. Flow should be scalable without losing ability to reference original text points of references (page numbers, paragraphs) - ways to locate and access particular pages, paragraphs as specified in the original text
  3. Bold could be glossary link, cognitive or navigation (must provided semantic info for each instance)
  4. Ability to act on the text - with a highlight bar - and save for later use
  5. Must be able to distinguish items from a list - noise
  6. Navigation between graphics and text versions
  7. Visual tracking for reading
  8. Cascading style sheets

Auditory Representations

  1. Ways to represent visual cues
  2. Ability to highlight text as it is being read
  3. Must be able to distinguish items from a list - noise
  4. Speed of tracking and reading should have flexibility

Tactile Representations

  1. Ways to represent visual cues, and capture the logical meaning of representations and layout
  2. Cognitive Representations
  3. Use of dictionaries
  4. Text tagging that allows students to have the ability of word prediction
  5. Mark up word meaning for translation for both signing avatars and to other languages
  6. Ability to extract meaning/context for children with cognitive disabilities
  7. Ability to scan the content prior to reading (if at all)
  8. Ability to highlight text as it's being read
  9. Cognitive overview of tex

H.R. 4582
Instructional Materials Accessibility Act

(Instructional Materials Accessibility Act & Individuals with Disabilities Education Act)

Contact the Capitol Switch Board at 202-224-3121 or 202-225 -3121


John A. Boehner (R-OH-8), Chairman

Thomas E. Petri (R-WI-6), Vice Chairman

Marge Roukema (R-NJ-5)

Cass Ballenger (R-NC-10)

Peter Hoekstra (R-MI-2)

Howard "Buck" McKeon (R-CA-25)

Michael N. Castle (R-DE-AL)

Sam Johnson (R-TX-3)

James C. Greenwood (R-PA-8)

Lindsey O. Graham (R-SC-3)

Mark E. Souder (R-IN-4)

Charlie Norwood (R-GA-10)

Bob Schaffer (R-CO-4)

Fred Upton (R-MI-6)

Van Hilleary (R-TN-4)

Vernon J. Ehlers (R-MI-3)

Thomas G. Tancredo (R-CO-6)

Jim DeMint (R-SC-4)

Johnny Isakson (R-GA-6)

Bob Goodlatte (R-VA-6)

Judy Biggert (R-IL-13)

Todd Platts (R-PA-19)

Patrick J. Tiberi (R-OH-12)

Ric Keller (R-FL-8)

Tom Osborne (R-NE-3)

John A. Culberson (R-TX-7)

Joe Wilson (R-SC-2)


George Miller (D-CA-7), Ranking

Dale E. Kildee (D-MI-9)

Major R. Owens (D-NY-11)

Donald M. Payne (D-NJ-10)

Patsy T. Mink (D-HI-2)

Robert E. Andrews (D-NJ-1)

Tim Roemer (D-IN-3)

Robert C. Scott (D-VA-3)

Lynn C. Woolsey (D-CA-6)

Lynn Rivers (D-MI-13)

Ruben Hinojosa (D-TX-15)

Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY-4)

John F. Tierney (D-MA-6)

Ron Kind (D-WI-3)

Loretta Sanchez (D-CA-46)

Harold E. Ford, Jr. (D-TN-9)

Dennis J. Kucinich (D-OH-10)

David Wu (D-OR-1)

Rush D. Holt (D-NJ-12)

Hilda Solis (D-CA-31)

Susan A. Davis (D-CA-49)

Betty McCollum (D-MN-4)

April 8, 2002


This Act may be cited as the Instructional Materials Accessibility Act.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


These provisions do not create new enforcement mechanisms, but make the rights, remedies and procedures available to children and parents under the IDEA and 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."


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


[FrontPage Include Component]

Last Revision: July 30, 2002


Instructional Materials Accessibility Act (IMAA)
HR 4582 and S 2246

April 23, 2002

Thomas Petri (R-WI) and George Miller (D-CA) are the lead sponsors of bill in the U.S. House of Representatives

Co-sponsors from the House confirmed as of May 6, 2002:

  • Gerald Kleczka (D-WI)
  • Adam Smith (D-WA)
  • Gene Green (D-TX)
  • Leonard Boswell (D-IA)
  • James Leach (R-IA)
  • Jim Turner (D-TX)
  • Adam Schiff (D-CA)
  • John Murtha (D-PA)
  • Jim Nussle (R-IA)
  • Thomas Barrett (D-WI)
  • Dale Kildee (D-MI)
  • Ron Kind (D-WI)
  • Greg Ganske (R-IA)
  • Neil Abercrombie (D-HI)
  • Susan Davis (D-CA)
  • Todd Platts (R-PA)
  • Stephen Horn (R-CA)
  • Dennis Kucinich (D-OH)
  • James Moran (D-VA)
  • Constance Morella (R-MD)
  • Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
  • John Lewis (D-GA)
  • John Cooksey (R-LA)
  • Chaka Fattah (D-PA)
  • James Greenwood (R-PA)
  • Marge Roukema (R-NJ)
  • Barney Frank (D-MA)
  • John Tierney (R-MA)
  • Martin Frost (D-TX)
  • Marcy Kaptur (D-OH)
  • Janice Schakowsky (D IL)
  • Christopher Shays (R-CT)
  • Henry Waxman (D-CA)
  • Mark Green (R-WI)
  • Jim Matheson (D-UT)
  • Steve Latourette (R-OH)
  • Jim McDermott (D-WA )
  • John Baldacci (D-ME)
  • Bernard Sanders (at large-VT)
  • David Vitter (R-LA)
  • James P. McGovern (D-MA)
  • John M. McHugh (R-NY)
  • David E. Bonior (D-MI)
  • Donald Payne (D-NJ)
  • Butch Otter (R-ID)
  • James Walsh (R-NY)

Senator Dodd (D-CT) and Thad Cochran (R-MS) are the lead sponsors in the Senate.

Cosponsors from the Senate confirmed as of May 6, 2002:

  • Jim Bunning (R-KY)
  • Tom Harkin (D-IA)
  • Rick Santorum (R-PA)

April 25, 2002

Dear Colleague:

On behalf of consumers, parents and professionals in the blindness field, and publishers of America's textbooks, I am pleased to tell you about the introduction of federal legislation which ensures timely access to print media for children who are blind or print disabled. A bipartisan press conference to announce the introduction of the Instructional Materials Accessibility Act (IMAA) was held on April 24 in Washington, D.C.

The Instructional Materials Accessibility Act (HR 4582 and S 2246) is designed to provide a national infrastructure that supports the provision of accessible textbooks and instructional materials. It is the result of a collaborative effort on the part of consumer and parent organizations of the blind, textbook publishers, and state and national organizations serving the blind. See a list of endorsing organizations.

As a leader in the blindness community, you may wish to complete the following:

  • personally contact your national legislators by letter or email to inform them of HR 4582 and S 2246,
  • contact individuals in your state education department to inform them of HR 4582 and S 2246,
  • provide us with the name of the legislative liaison in your state education department, and
  • send us any comments you receive as a result of your contacts.

We are interested to know about any comments you receive from state and national officials. Please send this information to Mary Ann Siller at or to American Foundation for the Blind, 260 Treadway Plaza, Dallas, Texas 75235. The fax number is 214-352-3214.

For more information see the following: IMAA Section-by-Section Analysis, organizations that support the federal legislation, an IMAA summary sheet, co-sponsors of the IMAA from the U.S. House and U.S. Senate, and the education committees of U. S. House and U.S. Senate that will be associated with the IMAA. Please feel free to share this letter and attached materials with consumers, parents and other colleagues. For more information about specifics of the bill, go to or


Mary Ann Siller, M.Ed.
American Foundation for the Blind
Project Director for the AFB Textbooks and Instructional Materials Solutions Forum

American Foundation for the Blind
Textbooks and Instructional Materials Solutions Forum

Statement of Purpose:

The Legislative and Policy Making Work Group is primarily concerned with the analysis and development of public policies impacting upon the Solutions Forum’s goal of ensuring equal access to the printed word, and more specifically, to the full range of educational materials. This work group is the Forum’s point of contact for on-going efforts among representatives of the publishing industry, blindness advocacy organizations and the National Library Service to assess the feasibility of establishing a national repository for standardized electronic files. Additionally, this work group will serve as a mechanism to package and present the Solutions Forum’s outcomes for future advocacy efforts.

Activity Areas:

  1. Participate in negotiations with the publishing industry: Organizations in the blindness field, in conjunction with the National Library Service (NLS), are working in collaboration with the publishing industry to test the feasibility of a national repository for publishers' electronic files.

  2. Gather information and relevant data for use in future advocacy efforts

  3. Maintain updated information on state legislation relating to braille literacy and/or production of Textbooks and Instructional Materials in specialized media

  4. Communicate with the Software and Information Industries Association (SIIA) regarding their collaboration in the Solutions Forum

  5. Develop public information for the Solutions Forum Column in JVIB.

Long-Term Activities:

  • Determine if public policy can be designed to encourage more states to ratify state adoption of textbooks.

  • Review with WGBH multimedia guidelines.

  1. Key points
    1. purpose
    2. student experience
    3. preparation time
    4. materials available
  2. Fast methods
    1. screen board
    2. Sewell Raised-Line Drawing Kit
    3. Tactile Image Enhancer
  3. Adequate time
    1. collage
      1. lines
        1. graphic art tape
        2. wikki stix
        3. string and glue
        4. plain glue
      2. points
        1. hole punch cork
        2. snap
        3. bead
      3. texture
        1. fabric
        2. corduroy
        3. felt
        4. burlap
        5. velour
        6. dotted swiss
        7. handi-wipe
        8. window screen
        9. sand paper
        10. corrugated cardboard
        11. plastic canvas
    2. tooling
      1. lines
        1. braille writer or slate and stylus
        2. carbon paper to transfer line to back of paper before tooling
        3. rubber mat or flat mat
        4. sewing tracing wheels
        5. Howe Press tracing wheel
        6. screwdriver and hammer
        7. Howe Press braille compass
      2. points
        1. rubber mat
        2. Swail dot inverter
        3. Howe Press single dot maker
        4. APH tactile graphics kit
      3. textures
        1. APH tactile graphics kit plates
        2. florist frog
        3. Swail dot inverter
        4. push pin
    3. examples of graphs with lines, points, textures
      1. coordinate plane with lines and inequalities
      2. circle graph or pie chart
      3. bar graph
      4. Venn diagram
      5. shaded circles
      6. measuring lines
      7. science graphic
      8. topographical map
  4. Tactile Graphics by Polly Edman, AFB

Source: American Foundation for the Blind Braille Literacy Mentors in Training: The Next Generation - Teaching Special Codes: Nemeth, CBC, and Tactile Graphics - Workshop in Fremont, California (August 7-9, 1997) and Atlanta, Georgia (September 11-13, 1997). Diane Spence and Susan A. Osterhaus

Betsy Burnham, Chairman

Reprinted from the NBA Bulletin, Winter 2000/2001, with permission from the National Braille Association, Inc. 

I have been privileged to be a part of many exciting discussions this fall at the NBA Regional Meeting and at the Textbooks and Instructional Materials Solutions Forum of American Foundation for the Blind (AFB). The focus of these discussions has been the critical need for timely delivery of educational materials in an appropriate format for students who are visually impaired. I would like to share with you some of the information that stirred these discussions. I hope you may be moved to help in finding solutions.

The American Foundation for the Blind developed the Textbooks and Instructional Materials Solutions Forum in 1998. The Forum includes textbook publishers, producers of specialized media, assistive technology specialists, policy makers, educators, representatives from Instructional Materials Resource Centers, parents, consumers, and others. Sally Hering has represented NBA previously; I attended my first meeting in October.

The Forum formed five work groups in 1998 to examine the "multifaceted process of producing and delivering educational materials in accessible media, and to determine ways to improve the delivery of textbooks and instructional materials in appropriate media." The five work groups are concerned with:

  1. Electronic Files and Research and Development 
  2. Legislative and Policy Making 
  3. Production 
  4. Training and Other Needs 
  5. Communications and Collaboration

Data from three national surveys, conducted during the spring/summer of 2000, was presented at the October meeting. The surveys dealt with multimedia, production, and training. Following are some of the revelations from the reports that have made the greatest impressions on me. I am not trying to reflect the overall import of the reports; these are facts that seem very meaningful to me.

Survey of Training and Availability of Braille Transcribers

  1. Blind children rely more on volunteers to produce their braille texts and materials than on paid employees. For example, 57.7% of the full-time transcribers reported in the survey are volunteers. 
  2. Of the full-time transcribers, both the employed and the volunteer, only 51.8% are certified by the National Library Service. 
  3. Within ten years there will be a need for 1,020 additional braille transcribers. 
  4. The regulations controlling the braille-providing agencies of several states would require that transcribers' proficiency in specific skill areas (e.g. tactile diagrams and foreign languages) be demonstrated through National Library Service certification. This certification, however, is only available for literary, mathematics, and music braille transcribing, and for braille proofreading. 
  5. The organizational status of braille transcribers is not clearly established. Braillists frequently do not enjoy appreciation or recognition.

Survey of Production of Textbooks and Instructional Materials

  1. All factors listed in the survey as "possibly important" in influencing the purchase and acquisition of braille, large print, and audio materials were deemed by those surveyed to be at least "somewhat important." The survey rated the most important factor for braille as the "quality of braille output." 
  2. The surveyed state agencies recognize a need for more transcribers but also realize that there are a lack of funds and a lack of recognition of "Braillist" as a bona fide job description. This may be why many states (40%) cite a need for more volunteers. 
  3. A large majority of state agencies are not addressing the need to use technology to increase the efficiency of their delivery systems.

For more details and to find out about the progress of each of these groups, visit the Forum's web site at:

One main effort of the Forum is toward achieving a uniform file type through which producers of textbooks can make it easier for transcribers to produce braille faster. The ideal file would be one that the transcriber could edit (format) without having to do any direct-entry brailling. The transcriber could use his time deciding how best to present the layers of headings, and the best ways to place picture captions, marginal notes, diagrams, tables, and so forth. The files that publishers currently produce are not compatible with the prevalent braille translation and editing programs. Publishers and writers of braille computer programs are cooperating to develop a file format that will work for all.

Read the following article for more information about these file types.

A Whole New Bowl of Alphabet Soup

Just when you thought you had figured out what all the acronyms stood for, along comes a whole new set for the twenty-first century. We'll try to continue your educational journey through some of the latest terms used when speaking about accessible textbooks.

Optical Character Reader (OCR)

Not particularly new to many who routinely use scanners, this device recognizes letters or other characters and stores the information as a computer text file. OCRs are usually limited to recognizing the styles and sizes of types for which they are programmed.

Open Electronic Book Forum (OEBF)

The purpose of OEBF is to create and maintain standards and promote the successful adoption of electronic books (books stored on computer disks). It is composed of hardware and software companies, publishers and users of electronic books, and related organizations. 

Digital Talking Book (DTB)

Reading talking books on cassettes requires winding and rewinding to locate various sections. A DTB is a group of digitally-encoded files containing an audio portion recorded in human speech giving the reader random access to the sections of the book by way of a talking table of contents. The full text of the electronic book is marked with the "tags" of a descriptive markup language, and contains a linking file that synchronizes the text and audio portions. (Tags are the symbols used to structure text.)

Digital Audio-based Information System Consortium (DAISY Consortium)

The DAISY Consortium is establishing the International Standard for the production, exchange, and use of Digital Talking Books. It is made up of organizations throughout the world who serve persons who are blind or print handicapped. Some of the organizations which have or will begin producing DTBs in DAISY format are Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic (RFB&D); American Foundation for the Blind (AFB), American Printing House for the Blind (APH), Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB), and the U.K. Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB).

National Information Standards Organization (NISO)

This is a U.S.-based committee working in conjunction with the DAISY Consortium on a specification for DTBs. NISO specifications will incorporate elements of structure needed to provide access to information and the synchronization of textual information with digitally recorded human speech. 

World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)

This is an international consortium to promote the evolution and operability of the World Wide Web. Working with the global community, the W3C produces specifications and reference software for free use around the world. The Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) established by the W3C, is working toward developing comprehensive and unified sets of guidelines to improve access to the Web by people with disabilities. Interestingly, a portion of the NBA Tape Recording Manual has been posted on the W3C web site for web developers in an effort to promote unified guidelines for describing illustrations, diagrams, and maps. 

Document Type Definition (DTD)

This is a formal definition of a discrete set of tags usually targeted at a particular type of application, for example, the DTD for the DTB would define tags for things one finds in a book--chapter, paragraph, footnote, etc.

The Extensible Markup Language (XML)

The XML is the universal format for structured documents and data on the web. It is a set of rules and guidelines for designing text formats for data in a way that produces files that are easy to generate and read by a computer.

Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML)

HTML is the common language used for publishing hypertext on the World Wide Web. It can be created and processed by a wide range of tools from plain text editors. It uses tags such as <hl> and </hl> to structure text into headings, paragraphs, lists, etc. 

Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language (SMIL)

SMIL enables authors to specify what should be presented, enabling them to control the precise time that a sentence is spoken and make it coincide with the display of an image appearing on a screen. SMIL has been designed for ease of access for authoring simple presentations with a text editor. 

Bob Stepp has written a paper in which he discusses computer languages and how they relate to the production of digital talking books, large print and braille. You may read the paper on the following site: