uS aND caNaDiaN DiSaBiLity POLiciES, rEcENt cHaLLENGES, aND uS aND caNaDiaN cOPyriGHt Law
DECEMBER 2012 RESEARCH LIBRARY ISSUES: A QUARTERLY REPORT FROM ARL, CNI, AND SPARC
In 2011, the Advisory Commission on Accessible Instructional Materials in Postsecondary Education for
Students with Disabilities (AIM Commission) released a report to Congress that focused on improving
access to instructional materials for students with disabilities in a timely and cost-effective manner.30 Key
• Students with disabilities, and most notably students with print disabilities, often experience a
variety of challenges that result from inaccessible learning materials and/or their delivery systems.
• Disability resource service providers and other university personnel often must engage in labor-
intensive practices to provide accessible instructional materials to students with disabilities.
• Textbook publishers and a number of electronic text vendors are moving to incorporate
accessibility into their products, but many products are still inaccessible to students with
disabilities who have difficulties accessing printed text.
• Opportunities for capacity building within postsecondary educational institutions are essential for
improving the ability of these institutions to provide accessible instructional materials to students
Key recommendations of AIM include:
• Congress should authorize the United States Access Board to establish guidelines for accessible
instructional materials that will be used by government, in the private sector, and in postsecondary
• Congress should review the scope, effectiveness, and function of the Copyright Act as amended
(section 121, the Chafee Amendment) to determine whether it or any of its key component
elements, as well as its implementation through applicable regulations, need to be updated to
adequately address the needs of individuals with print disabilities, including those enrolled in
• Congress should consider incentives to accelerate innovation in accessibility by publishers and
producers of course materials, hardware, and software by offering support and inducements for
the production, sale, and consumption of accessible instructional materials and delivery systems.
• The commission recommends that federally sponsored projects and programs encourage
and support systematic faculty and staff professional development with respect to selection,
production, and delivery of high-quality accessible instruction materials to meet the needs of
students with disabilities in postsecondary settings.
US Copyright Law and Issues for Print-Disabilities Services
Libraries have important policy commitments and substantial legal obligations to make materials fully
accessible to patrons. Until recently, copyright law presented challenges for libraries seeking to provide
full access to materials because some believed that it did not allow copying and modification of existing
works without permission. As a result, there has been tension between copyright law and effective library
access for those with print disabilities. Solutions to this tension are based on the exceptions built into the
Copyright Act. Indeed, a recent court decision, The Authors Guild, Inc., et al., v. HathiTrust, et al., declared