EDUCAUSE-supported legislation, the AIM HIGH Act, was reintroduced in the House of Representatives on December 5 and includes several changes from previous iterations.
Congressmen Phil Roe (R-TN) and Joe Courtney (D-CT) reintroduced the Accessible Instructional Materials in Higher Education (AIM HIGH) Act, H.R. 5312, in the US House of Representatives on December 5. The bill contains several changes from previous versions of the legislation, but the spirit of the measure remains intact.
The AIM HIGH Act would establish a commission of representatives from major stakeholder communities (including higher education) to develop voluntary accessibility guidelines for postsecondary instructional materials and related technologies. The commission would also leverage its work on the guidelines to create a list of general IT accessibility standards that would be annotated to clarify their relevance to different aspects of higher education IT. To ensure a consensus-based approach, 75 percent of the commission members would need to approve the release of either resource.
This iteration of the AIM HIGH Act differs from the version introduced in the last Congress in that it no longer includes provisions that created a legal safe harbor for the use of materials and technologies that fully conform with the developed guidelines.1 The bill instead includes a new provision on voluntary guidelines for pilot testing of relevant materials and technologies—language that EDUCAUSE developed in concert with representatives from the National Federation of the Blind, the American Council on Education, the Association of American Publishers, and the Software and Information Industry Association. The safe harbor provision served as a hindrance in building wider support for the bill in the past, so EDUCAUSE and the organizations we worked with are hopeful that the alternative language will make the bill appealing to a larger set of lawmakers while providing EDUCAUSE members with a consensus framework to use in piloting new materials and technologies on their campuses. To ensure consensus, three-fourths of the commission would need to approve the pilot testing guidelines.
The bill now awaits consideration by the House Education and Labor Committee. Members may recall that the EDUCAUSE-supported version of the AIM HIGH Act was incorporated last year in the Republicans' now-defunct Higher Education Act (HEA) reauthorization proposal, the PROSPER Act.2 While that bill cleared the committee on a party-line vote, it did not receive a floor vote before the 115th Congress adjourned. Most recently, a version of the AIM HIGH Act was included in the House Democrats' HEA reauthorization proposal, the College Affordability Act [https://edlabor.house.gov/the-college-affordability-act-facts]. However, that proposal differs from the EDUCAUSE-supported measure in several distinct ways; most notably, it removes all mention of the guidelines being voluntary and excludes language included in the original bill that explicitly limits the ability of federal agencies to incorporate the guidelines into regulation solely by reference. The College Affordability Act passed the House Education and Labor Committee by a party-line vote; however, its fate in the House is unclear. Members should note that even if it were to receive a full House vote, the bill is ultimately dead on arrival in the Senate, and no Senate HEA reauthorization proposal is currently on the horizon.
The AIM HIGH Act has yet to be reintroduced in the Senate in this Congress, but EDUCAUSE continues to engage with the relevant offices in the upper chamber on this effort. EDUCAUSE will continue to work with the other stakeholder groups to encourage passage of the bill and will keep members informed regarding subsequent progress.
- Jarret Cummings, "EDUCAUSE-Supported Accessible Instructional Materials Bill Reintroduced in House," Policy Spotlight (blog), EDUCAUSE Review, March 31, 2017. ↩
- Jen Ortega, "House's PROSPER Act Includes AIM HIGH, Makes Changes to Copyright Requirements," Policy Spotlight (blog), EDUCAUSE Review, January 4, 2018. ↩
- Kathryn Branson, "House Education and Labor Committee Passes HEA Reauthorization Bill," Policy Spotlight (blog), EDUCAUSE Review, December 10, 2019. ↩
Kathryn Branson is a Senior Associate with Ulman Public Policy.
© 2019 Kathryn Branson. The text of this work is licensed under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 4.0 International License.