05.03.18

Cassidy, Colleagues Urge Support for Bookshare Program Helping Students with Disabilities

WASHINGTON— U.S. Senators Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA), and Chris Murphy (D-CT), members of the Senate Education Committee, led 10 of their Senate colleagues in requesting more than $30 million in funding for the federal Bookshare program, which promotes better learning outcomes in students with visual and print disabilities by providing free access to a library of more than 600,000 adaptive books in audio, braille, and other formats.

“Your support for this program is vital to ensuring students with visual and print disabilities have access to educational materials that enable learning and academic growth,” states the senators’ letter to Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA). “That is why we urge you to provide $30.047 million in funding for this program in the FY2019 Labor, HHS Appropriations bill. In addition, as the committee has done in the past, we urge the committee to include report language supporting expanding the reach of the program to more K-12 students in underserved areas.”

In addition to Cassidy and Murphy, senators signing the letter include Brian Schatz (D-HI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Ed Markey (D-MA), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), and Maggie Hassan (D-NH).

The full text of the letter is below:

Dear Chairman Blunt and Ranking Member Murray,

As you craft the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2019, we urge you to fund the Educational Technology, Media, and Materials program at $30.047 million. This funding provides over 530,000 students nationwide with visual and print disabilities free access to a library of 600,000 accessible books through the Bookshare project.

The Bookshare project specifically designed a technology that promotes better learning outcomes in students with visual and print disabilities. This technology provides texts online in audio, large print, and braille formats. Prior to 2006, just 5% of print materials worldwide were available to students with print disabilities. Thanks to this federal investment and the work of the disabilities community, the overwhelming majority of material students need for school is now available to them in a format that is accessible. Today, Bookshare’s library has over 600,000 books and adds an additional 68,000 books a month. Bookshare was also able to achieve this dramatic growth at 1/15 the cost of other methods.

Bookshare is widely used in districts and homes across the country. Currently, 25,000 districts, including 99 of the largest 100 school districts, use Bookshare. Furthermore, students have used Bookshare to download over 12.5 million books, an average of 130,000 books per month. With current funding from the Department of Education Bookshare plans to expand the number of students served to 725,000 and grow the number of books offered to 800,000 by 2022. Funding from the Educational Technology, Media, and Materials program, provided by this committee, is integral to reaching that goal.

Your support for this program is vital to ensuring students with visual and print disabilities have access to educational materials that enable learning and academic growth. That is why we urge you to provide $30.047 million in funding for this program in the FY2019 Labor, HHS Appropriations bill. In addition, as the committee has done in the past, we urge the Committee to include report language supporting expanding the reach of the program to more K-12 students in underserved areas.

Thank you for your consideration of this request, and we hope we can count on your support.

Sincerely,

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