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uS aND caNaDiaN DiSaBiLity POLiciES, rEcENt cHaLLENGES, aND uS aND caNaDiaN cOPyriGHt Law
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DECEMBER 2012 RESEARCH LIBRARY ISSUES: A QUARTERLY REPORT FROM ARL, CNI, AND SPARC
library resources, banking services, and more. The agreement is comprehensive, and it includes
accessibility goals to be achieved within certain timeframes, that members of the university community
be educated regarding print-disability issues, and that accessibility must be addressed in all campus-
wide information technology procurement.23 The agreement serves as a model for other colleges and
universities. Indeed, setting precedent for other academic institutions was a stated goal of the NFB in
reaching this agreement.
Similarly, based on complaints by two print-disabled students, Florida State University agreed to
make a number of its science and math courses more accessible, as the students were unable to complete
courses related to their academic track.
In response to the growing number of e-reader pilot programs and the development and adoption
of IT services at colleges and universities throughout the US, the Departments of Education and Justice
issued a joint “Dear Colleague Letter” to college and university presidents.24 The letter stated that use
of information technologies such as e-readers—both existing and emerging—must be accessible to
students with disabilities, or institutions would risk violating the ADA and Section 504 unless other
accommodations or modifications could be made to allow these students to “receive all the educational
benefits provided by the technology in an equally effective and equally integrated manner.”25
The authors of the letter to the presidents stated, “[w]e ask that you take steps to ensure that your
college or university refrains from requiring the use of any electronic book reader, or other similar
technology, in a teaching or classroom environment as long as the device remains inaccessible to
individuals who are blind or have low vision. It is unacceptable for universities to use emerging
technology without insisting that this technology be accessible to all students.”26 In a subsequent FAQ
to presidents of colleges and universities (May 2011), ED reiterated that “equal access for students with
disabilities is the law and must be considered as new technology is integrated into the educational
environment.”27
In September 2012, the President of the NFB, Marc Maurer, wrote to the presidents of Internet2,
EDUCAUSE, McGraw-Hill Education, and the CEO and founder of Courseload concerning a joint
EDUCAUSE/Internet2 e-textbook pilot. The pilot seeks to advance a new model for the purchase,
distribution, and use of e-textbooks and digital course materials. Twenty-five academic institutions are
participating in the pilot in the current academic semester (fall 2012), with expansion anticipated in the
spring of 2013. In his letter, Maurer noted that, “although we support the use of e-textbooks at colleges
and universities, we are shocked and dismayed that you are moving forward with the program without
first correcting the obvious accessibility barriers that prevent blind students from participating.”28 He
further noted that the program “in its current form does not meet the participating schools’ obligation
under ADA and Section 504.” Maurer asked that the pilot not continue until accessibility issues were
resolved. In response, the presidents of EDUCAUSE and Internet2 noted that “recognizing the pace
of change in technology, and specifically in outside tools has dramatically increased, the only way to
identify challenges and make progress is by assessing tools and materials that may not yet be mature.”
They indicated their intention to “build on these results and more to deploy a diverse set of pilots
involving several e-reader platforms and several publishers” in the spring of 2013.29 Developments are
ongoing as of the writing of this report and further conversations amongst the groups are underway.
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