02/07/2012: Senate HELP Committee holds hearing on challenges and opportunities for accessible technologies

On Tuesday, February 7, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee held a hearing to discuss the impact of technology in education and its accessibility for people with disabilities. This was the latest in a series of hearings that explore issues that impact the employment prospects for Americans with disabilities. The HELP committee’s overall goal for these hearings is to boost labor force participation for people with disabilities. This hearing focused on education, accessible technology and universal design.

The executive director of the National Federation of the Blind, Mark Riccobono, testified before Senator Tom Harkin on the importance of accessible technology used in K-12 and postsecondary educational institutions to the blind and to other students with disabilities, and was supported by the presence of over 100 members of his organization. Testimonies were also hear from:

  • Eve Hill , Senior Counselor to the Assistant Attorney General, Civil Rights Division, Department of Justice, Washington,
  • Dr. John B. Quick , Superintendent, Bartholomew Consolidated School Corporation, Columbus, IN, and
  • Mark Turner, M.A , Director, Center for Accessible Media, Accessible Technology Initiative, California State University, Long Beach, CA

The main conclusion of the hearing were that technology is being created with accessibility in mind. Therefore, they suggest there be federal oversight on the manufacturing of accessible technologies to ensure the devices are being created accessible rather than “retro-fitted”. Additionally, curricula must be created to make the use of technology accessible to all, such as using a large array of ways to present the information to students. Finally, there should be improved protections against inaccessible technology in education.

Watch the full hearing and read the testimonies here.

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