TRENTON – A resolution sponsored by Senator Teresa Ruiz, the Vice Chair of the Senate Education Committee, which would urge textbook publishers and institutions of higher education to work together to make it easier for visually-impaired students to have access to college textbooks in Braille was unanimously approved by the Education Committee today.
“One of the basic fundamental principles of our nation is that we are all given the same opportunities to excel, no matter where you were born or what disabilities or impairments you may suffer,” said Senator Ruiz, D-Essex and Union. “However, for many visually impaired college students, the simple higher education ritual of purchasing textbooks at the beginning of the semester can be difficult, if not impossible. Schools need to work with publishers to ensure that every student has access to the same learning materials, and is given the chance to succeed.”
The resolution, SR-59, would encourage increased cooperation between textbook publishers and colleges to facilitate the ability of visually-impaired students to obtain Braille textbooks. Current federal law requires that textbook publishers provide electronic files of their books to the National Instructional Materials Access Center (NIMAC), to allow for the rapid and cost-effective conversion into Braille for textbooks used in elementary and high schools. Senator Ruiz noted that the same system should be in place for students seeking higher education.
“The cost of converting a traditional textbook into Braille format can be staggering, but that cost should not be passed along to students in need,” said Senator Ruiz. “The cost of tuition is high enough without visually-impaired students being forced to spend thousands of dollars simply to follow along in the same textbooks as the rest of their classmates. This is a matter of fairness to visually-impaired students seeking to achieve a higher education.”
The resolution now heads to the full Senate for consideration.