[nabs-l] access to higher education

nesma aly nesmaaly123 at gmail.com
Tue Dec 22 15:08:58 UTC 2015

hi all I was asked to circulate the following information. 

As many of you know, the Annual NFB Washington Seminar draws near. Changing laws is how we change the reality for blind people in America. I am writing to ask you to help me make a difference on this critical issue. Please help us collect 250 letters to Members of Congress!
1.      Equal access to an education, including technology used on campus, is a legal right today for blind students, yet failure to provide accessible materials and utilize accessible technology is not rare, it is the norm.
2.      Members of the House of Representatives and Senate do care what their constituents think.
3.      Your personal story can be a powerful tool to highlight the urgent need to pass legislation to help ensure that blind students are not left behind due to inaccessible technology.
4.      If you right a brief letter to your Senators and Representative, we will ensure that it is delivered to your Members of Congress in meetings in late January.
5.      You have a bit of free time on your hands now that the semester is over (Ok, that might be a little bit of speculation!)
Please, take 15 minutes to half an hour to write a quick letter for us before January 10. Our goal is 250. We already have many. Thanks to those of you who have already written! Please, Just share any stories you have related to access buriers such as: inaccessible pdf books, inaccessible file formats, reader hardware, web platforms, required software for coursework or to register for classes, print transcripts, etc. Just tell a bit about how inaccessibility negatively impacted your education in community college, university, grad school, etc. Even if you are a relatively recent graduate, stories about access buriers in post-secondary education would be very, very helpful. Just write the story in a letter to your elected officials. In the letter say dear Senator so and so, introduce yourself, say where you go to school, tell your story about inaccessibility on campus, then ask Congress to pass a law creating voluntary guidelines for accessibility in higher education.
Please send letters, or any questions, to me at:
Nabs.president at gmail.com
Or Kathryn Webster at:
Kathrynwebsternfb at gmail.com
I have pasted my letter below as an example in case it is helpful. It doesn’t need to be long, or need to be the most beautiful thing ever written. Just tell your story clearly.
I wouldn’t ask you to take the time if it didn’t really make a difference. Personal stories from constituents can make a major impact! Please, take a little time before then end of the year to write a letter and help this important effort.
Please be in touch with any questions.
Thank you very much!
Dear Massachusetts Congressional Delegation:
When I learned that all of the required readings for the courses in my Master of Public Policy program were going to be posted online in electronic format, I, as a blind student who cannot read print, was thrilled. I assumed that my experience as a graduate student at Harvard would be much smoother in terms of accessibility than was my time as an undergrad seven years ago at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Unfortunately, my assumption proved premature. Despite the ease with which materials can be made accessible with current technology, I have found many of my electronic readings to be poorly tagged .pdf files that a text to speech screen-reading program cannot decipher. Instead of having access equal to that of my peers to course readings, the disability student services office has to convert the documents into text files and I have to wait to have access to the materials. This system is inefficient and it leaves me at a disadvantage to my classmates. This is one of many examples of access barriers I have encountered due to inaccessible technology. And stories like mine are all too common among blind college and graduate students. But why are blind students not receiving equal access to all aspects of education? It isn’t because accessibility is difficult or expensive to achieve. And it isn’t because universities are maliciously discriminating against blind students. It is simply because schools, for the most part, don’t really understand what accessibility looks like. And, therefore, the schools do not know what accessibility features to demand from those who create the technologies they purchase and use. Voluntary guidelines would address this problem. Written standards would set out clear metrics for accessibility in course management software, electronic reading materials, and e-readers or tablets used by students. These guidelines would not impose any new legal requirements on schools, but rather would assist schools in meeting their obligation to provide full and equal access to all students, regardless of disability. I urge you to support equal access to education in order to ensure that blind students like me don’t face needless barriers in our education.
 Please send all letters to me  or Shawn and we will get them to the people they need to go to.  

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