National Center for Learning Disabilities

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Accessible Instructional Materials in Postsecondary Education

Disabilities And Education - Post Secondary School Education  In December 2011, the Advisory Commission on Accessible Instructional Materials in Postsecondary Education for Students with Disabilities, which was authorized by Congress, issued a ground-breaking report. NCLD’s Executive Director, Jim Wendorf, served as Vice Chair.

While acknowledging the complex and real barriers facing schools, publishers and most important, students, in accessing instructional materials, the report makes it clear that students with disabilities should not be denied the opportunity  to fully benefit from a postsecondary education.  Barriers to existing instructional materials should be removed or surmounted.  Future instructional materials can and must be designed to meet the needs of all students, including students with disabilities.  The prosperity of our nation and its people depends on full inclusion and full access.

Read the full report here and a statement from James H. Wendorf, Executive Director of NCLD, below.


On the Release of the Report of the Advisory Commission on Accessible Instructional Materials in Postsecondary Education for Students with Disabilities


Today marks an important step forward for students with disabilities who aspire to achieve a college education.  The Advisory Commission, which was authorized by Congress and on which I served as Vice Chair, has issued a ground-breaking report. While acknowledging the complex and real barriers facing schools, publishers and most important, students, in accessing instructional materials, the report makes it clear that students with disabilities should not be denied the opportunity  to fully benefit from a postsecondary education.  Barriers to existing instructional materials should be removed or surmounted.  Future instructional materials can and must be designed to meet the needs of all students, including students with disabilities.  The prosperity of our nation and its people depends on full inclusion and full access.

The Commission worked diligently for more than a year to create a set of critical recommendations for Congress to consider, with the goal of removing barriers and fostering accessibility for all students.  Key to these recommendations is a call for Congress to review the narrow authority (often referred to as the Chafee amendment) to reproduce written material for persons with disabilities in a usable format.  There is general confusion over the application of the existing law and regulations – especially as Chafee applies to students with learning disabilities--and specific uncertainty as to which organizations are permitted to reproduce instructional materials. In addition, current limitations on dramatic literary works, such as plays and films necessary for student study, have hampered Chafee’s benefits for students with disabilities.  The Commission makes a strong recommendation to Congress to revisit Chafee to ensure it fully incorporates leading scientific evidence and is focused on the best interests of students, while simultaneously honoring the rights of authors and publishers. I, along with thousands of college students with learning disabilities, look forward to Congress taking up and acting on the Commission’s recommendations.  But even these recommendations should be viewed as a first step.  Further examination and discussion of these issues must continue and additional advocacy must occur to ensure that all college students with learning disabilities have access to the instructional materials they need to succeed.

The comprehensive work of the Commission, plus its actionable recommendations, would not have been possible without vital support from the U.S. Department of Education and specifically the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, as well as the Center for Applied Specialized Technology.  My thanks go to the staff of these offices for the leadership and support they provided to produce this report.