Calls for Equal Access to Information and Technology in America's Universities
The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) responded today to recent attacks on the right of blind students to have equal access to technologies used by America's universities and to the textbooks and course materials offered by institutions of higher learning. The NFB and the United States Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, have come under attack in recent days for reaching settlements with universities requiring that the universities refrain from purchasing any e-book technology that is not fully accessible to the blind.
Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: "Blind students must have access to the same textbooks and course materials and the same technology to read them as all other students. This is not only a matter of fairness to blind students but a requirement of federal law. For this reason, we applaud the United States Department of Justice, acting at our request and pursuant to its mandate to enforce this nation's disability rights laws, for reaching landmark settlements with colleges and universities ensuring that e-book technologies deployed by these institutions will be accessible to all their students. With the announcement of a new accessible Amazon Kindle, the recent introduction of the Apple iPad, and the promise of future accessible e-book products many of which would not have been made accessible without our advocacy efforts colleges and universities will find it increasingly easy to procure e-book technology that benefits everyone. These settlements benefit not only blind students, who will now have access to the same books at the same time and at the same price as their sighted peers, but also institutions of higher learning, which will no longer incur the administrative burden of producing or procuring accessible books through separate and inferior methods. To the extent that inaccessible e-book technology remains a barrier to the equal education of the blind, however, the National Federation of the Blind will continue to fight for the educational and legal rights of blind students, and we will not hesitate to call upon the Department of Justice and other government authorities to assist us in doing so when necessary."
About the National Federation of the Blind
With more than 50,000 members, the National Federation of the Blind is the largest and most influential membership organization of blind people in the United States. The NFB improves blind people's lives through advocacy, education, research, technology, and programs encouraging independence and self-confidence. It is the leading force in the blindness field today and the voice of the nation's blind. In January 2004 the NFB opened the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute, the first research and training center in the United States for the blind led by the blind.
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