Opinion

THE PODIUM

Disabled students need proper technology, but TEACH Act isn’t the answer

Colleges and universities in Massachusetts and nationwide are committed to providing an environment where all of our students can flourish. In the case of students with disabilities, this means providing accessible campuses and learning materials and supporting their scholarship.

That’s why we were puzzled by Kyle Shachmut’s opinion piece on the TEACH Act (“On education technology, college lobbyists are keeping disabled students behind,” The Podium, Sept. 5). As Shachmut mentions, the American Council on Education, along with 20 other higher education groups representing nearly every college and university in the country, recently expressed our concerns with the legislation.

We share Shachmut’s desire to better serve students with disabilities and to provide clarity to institutions as they adopt new technologies. Unfortunately, this is not what the TEACH Act would do.

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Far from creating helpful, voluntary guidelines, the TEACH Act would keep schools from using new technology to aid students, including those with disabilities. It would overturn existing legal standards and put an obscure federal agency in charge of approving use by campuses of new technologies — effectively blocking technological progress.

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These are the same concerns we shared with Shachmut’s organization, the National Federation of the Blind, over a year ago. To imply, as Shachmut does, that these concerns arise from anything other than a desire for the best policy outcome for our students is both unfair and unwarranted.

We take our responsibilities to our students seriously. Rather than helping students with disabilities, the TEACH Act would ensure that all students are left behind as technology advances.

Terry Hartle is senior vice president of the American Council on Education.