Voluntary National Standard for Accessible Digital Instructional Materials to be Developed

November 18, 2002

The creation of a standard file format is of significant importance to students, educators, publishers, technology specialists and advocacy groups, according to Robert H. Pasternack, assistant secretary for special education and rehabilitative services.

“It is critical for a uniform format to be established in order to coordinate the efforts of various groups interested in providing accessible instructional materials to states, schools, educators, and students,” Pasternack said. “Since there is not yet agreement regarding the optimal file format standard for all students, a national voluntary standard would provide a baseline for future development and enhancements.”

CAST, in consultation with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) at the Department of Commerce, will convene an advisory panel of publishers, disability advocates, assistive technology developers, producers of curriculum materials for students with disabilities, data transformation experts and state representatives.

The panel will develop recommendations for a set of technical specifications for accessible instructional materials, a timeline for the implementation of the proposed standard, and a process for assessing the success of standards implementation. The secretary will provide an opportunity for public comment on the proposed standard through a notice in the Federal Register.

The project is intended to improve access to the general education curriculum in a timely manner for students with disabilities. It is particularly important to students who are blind or print disabled and in need of textbooks in Braille or other alternative formats.

“This important effort to develop a national standard for instructional materials will build upon the work done by a broad coalition of organizations representing individuals who are blind, along with parent organizations and publishers,” Pasternack said. “We look forward to continuing to work with them and CAST in this effort.”

Funds for the project will come from the Office of Special Education Programs within Pasternack’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services.