TEACH Act Update

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Last October, I posted about the agreement between higher education associations (including EDUCAUSE), the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), and the Association of American Publishers (AAP) to develop a compromise version of the Technology, Equality, and Accessibility in College and Higher Education (TEACH) Act. Since that time, the goal of our effort has been to design a bill that will lead to voluntary guidelines for accessible postsecondary instructional materials and related technologies while avoiding the concerns generated by the original bill (which I discuss in my earlier post). The groups agreed to tackle the problem in two stages – first, we would develop a consensus outline for the bill to make sure we had shared agreement on what it would address and how it would work, and then we would write the bill itself and seek to have it introduced in Congress.

The NFB/AAP/higher education team working on this issue thought that we had a distribution draft to share with other associations for review and comment in late January. An initial review meeting at that time with major stakeholders highlighted some unanticipated problems, though, so we’ve been working since February to resolve those. While we do not have a shared draft outline yet, only a couple of points remain until we hit that milestone.

Once we do, which we expect will happen in the next few weeks, EDUCAUSE will work with other higher education associations to identify and address any needed improvements and confirm general higher education support for the outlined approach. We will then work with NFB and AAP representatives to translate the consensus outline into a bill for Congress to consider, which will most likely occur in connection with the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act later this year.

I will post additional details as public versions of the working documents become available. Substantial progress has been made, though, on a process for developing voluntary accessible instructional materials guidelines on which NFB, AAP, and higher education groups can agree.