In the Travelogue section of RollingRains.com I am writing about my encounters with "print disability" as a legal concept and as an impetus for social entrepreneurship. (Of course, we will eventually want to explore how it all relates to extending possibilities for people with disabilities to travel.)
Privileges are available for certain services to those in the US who qualify as having a print disability. Bookshare provides such services. Eligibility requirements are defined by copyright law.
As I apply my skillset to helping Bookshare.org continue to retain quality volunteers I am exposed to an ever-deeper understanding of the concept print disability.
It is the law that allows Bookshare.org to function legally. The basis for Bookshare's legal existence is an exemption in the U.S. copyright law called the , which is Section 121 of copyright law. Chafee allows a government or authorized entity such as Bookshare to provide alternative format books and media to individuals with print disabilities.Below is guidance from the Bookshare website on the legal definitions of print disability.
If you have a disability that makes it difficult or impossible to read a printed book, you most likely will qualify for Bookshare® services. To confirm that you qualify, you, or the organization representing you, will be asked to provide your Proof of Disability (certified by a qualified professional) during the registration process.
The answers to common questions below provide guidelines for determining what qualifies as a print disability.
Frequently Asked Questions: Qualifications
1. I have a vision disability; how do I know if I qualify?
If you are legally blind, you qualify. In addition, if you don't meet the legal blindness standard, a functional vision assessment that indicates a significant problem accessing text is also acceptable.
2. I have a learning disability; how do I know if I qualify?
If you are a K-12 student in the U.S. who has an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) with a specific language learning disability and a need for text accommodations, your school should be able to confirm that you qualify and sign you up for Bookshare membership. Post-secondary, adult, or non-U.S. students should be able to obtain equivalent qualifications if they have a significant learning disability that affects reading.
3. I have a physical disability; how do I know if I qualify?
If you can't pick up a book, turn pages, maintain visual focus on a book or don't have the physical stamina to work with printed material, you most likely qualify for Bookshare membership.
4. So, who doesn't qualify?
The 98% of the population who can pick up a book and read it (or could if they learned to read). The copyright exemption exists to help the small number of people whose disabilities have a major impact on their ability to read. Other people who don't qualify include:
* People without disabilities
* People who haven't learned to read yet, but could
* People who don't speak the language they want to read
* People with disabilities that don't impact the ability to read (for example, most hearing and emotional disabilities)
Some people with these disabilities might qualify on another basis. For example, someone who is deaf and legally blind qualifies for Bookshare. Someone with a developmental disability and a learning disability might qualify.
5. I'm a certifying professional. How can I access the technical requirements for certification?
The full technical and legal details are available on the Chafee Amendment page. If you are certifying someone who has a physically-based disability (including dyslexia) that makes it difficult to read standard print effectively, he or she should meet the technical requirements and you should be able to confirm this in writing if your professional expertise is applicable to such a determination.
6. Is autism a qualifying print disability?
Does a hearing impairment qualify?
Is dyslexia a qualifying print disability?
Can you explain the Chafee Amendment?
What are the requirements to verify a print disability? Which legal definition do you use to ensure an individual is qualified?
It is very important to remember that eligibility requirements are defined by copyright law, not education law. While many of these questions imply that the requirements seem restrictive, the requirements come from the law, and it is the law that allows Bookshare to function legally. The basis for Bookshare's legal existence is an exemption in the U.S. copyright law called the Chafee Amendment, which is Section 121 of copyright law. Chafee allows a government or authorized entity such as Bookshare to provide alternative format books and media to individuals with print disabilities.
This copyright law exemption tries to balance the needs of people who are unable to read normal print with the rights of publishers and authors. It is not based on who might benefit from access to accessible materials: it restricts the exemption to a group of people who are assumed to not be able to access regular print materials because of a severe disability. Publishers and authors don't receive a royalty under this copyright exemption, and have an interest in ensuring it stays narrowly focused on the one or two percent of the population who can't read standard print.
Some people with very real disabilities that might benefit from accessible text may not meet this legal definition. People who are deaf, have cognitive disabilities, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), autism or mental illness do not meet this definition by virtue of those disabilities alone. It is quite possible that some people with these disabilities still qualify because of other factors. For example, a severe visual or learning disability could also be present in a person with these other disabilities. So, a person who is deaf and blind, or ADHD and dyslexic, could qualify.
Bookshare puts the responsibility of certification on the professional signing the Proof of Disability form to confirm that each Bookshare Member meets the copyright definition. Here's a simplified guide on students who should be able to qualify for Bookshare services and have a certifying professional sign off on their qualification:
* Students with visual impairments that keep them from reading standard print (blind, legally blind, or with other functional vision limitations).
* Students with severe learning disabilities that keep them from being able to effectively read standard print. This includes students with IEPs that call for text accommodation to respond to specific language learning disabilities.
* Students with physical disabilities that prevent them from reading print or using a print book. Such a limitation could be the result of a spinal cord injury, cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury, a neurological condition, etc.
There is a lot of confusion and misinformation about qualifications. For example, many people with learning disabilities do not meet the qualification, because their disability doesn't affect their ability to read print or their disability is not severe enough to meet the stringent language of the copyright regulations. Not all students with IEPs qualify for Bookshare services. For example, a deaf student with an IEP who is reading text at grade level would not meet the copyright definition of print disability, while qualifying for other services related to deafness.
The Bookshare team believes strongly in the value of accessible media for students beyond those who qualify under the copyright exemptions. Bookshare is working with publishers to see if there's a solution for these students that provides publishers and authors with compensation. But, for now, Bookshare needs to operate in careful compliance with copyright law to ensure that Bookshare can serve students with severe disabilities today.