February 27, 2014

Sens. Warren and Hatch Introduce Bipartisan TEACH Act

Legislation would Strengthen Accessibility of Higher Education Technology for Students with Disabilities

Text of the legislation

Fact sheet on the legislation

WASHINGTON, DC – United States Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) today introduced the Technology, Education, and Accessibility in College and Higher Education (“TEACH”) Act, bipartisan legislation that would help strengthen the accessibility of educational technologies for college students with disabilities. Senator Warren announced her introduction of the legislation this morning at a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) hearing on “Promoting College Access and Success For Students With Disabilities.” Video of Senator Warren discussing the TEACH Act with disability experts and announcing its introduction is available here.

“It’s critically important that university services and course materials remain accessible to students with disabilities as technology advances and changes the way we communicate and learn,” Senator Warren said. “I’m pleased to join Senator Hatch to introduce the TEACH Act, which would help promote the use of educational technologies that meet the needs of all students."

“Technological advances have increased educational opportunities for everyone but especially for students with disabilities. However, in order to benefit from these new technologies students need to be able to access them,” said Senator Hatch. “The TEACH Act promotes the development of guidelines to assist educational institutions in selecting and offering course materials and services that students of all abilities can benefit from, and as someone who helped write the Americans with Disabilities Act, I’m proud to support it.”

Currently, not all technologies used at colleges and universities are accessible to students with disabilities, even though non-discrimination laws require accessibility. Federal non-discrimination laws were drafted long before the use of electronic instructional materials and other technologies on college campuses became widespread, and they do not contain the performance criteria or specifications that are necessary for accessible electronic materials.

The TEACH Act would require the United States Access Board to develop guidelines for the accessibility of electronic instructional materials and information technologies at institutions of higher learning. The legislation would help colleges select and adopt technologies that can be used by all students, and help create a better market for accessible technologies.

The TEACH Act was previously introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Congressman Thomas Petri (R-Wis.). It has been endorsed by disability rights organizations, including the National Federation of the Blind, Association of American Publishers,  American Association of People with Disabilities, National Council on Independent Living, National Center for Learning Disabilities, American Council of the Blind , Association for Education and Rehabilitation, Association on Higher Education and Disability, DAISY Consortium, CAST Universal Design for Learning, Hearing Loss Association of America, National Association of the Deaf, and the National Court Reporters Association.