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Regents Hear Presentation on Serving Students with Disabilities

Atlanta — February 10, 2009

Among the University System of Georgia’s (USG’s) 283,000 student population are more than 9,000 individuals with a variety of learning disabilities that are being assisted through a wide range of special programs. That’s according to a report produced for the University System’s Board of Regents that looked at how learning disabilities were being addressed during Fiscal Year 2007.

Dr. Christopher Lee, director of the USG’s Alternative Media Access Center (AMAC), provided this information in a presentation during the regent’s Feb. meeting. The Center is one member of the network that serves students with disabilities throughout the University System. Other arms of the network consist of campus-based disability student service offices, the Regents’ Centers for Learning Disorders and a recently established AccessText Network.

“Over the last two decades the University System of Georgia invested in system wide initiatives to serve students with disabilities,” Lee said. “An efficient network is now in place and with continued refinement it will be a national customer service blueprint for other states to follow.”

The number of students with learning disabilities served by the University System almost doubled from 4,721 in FY 2001 to 9,046 in FY 2008, a 91 percent increase. Current estimates based on the existing disability population in the K-12 system indicate that the number of students requiring the USG’s services will continue to increase in the future, Lee said.

Lee highlighted for the regents a recent effort to address current and future challenges for providing services to students with print-related disabilities, such as blindness. AMAC and the Association of American Publishers (AAP) have worked collaboratively to develop and launch the AccessText Network, a comprehensive, national online system that promises to make it easier and quicker for students with print-related disabilities to obtain the textbooks they need for their college courses.

“Many college students with disabilities are struggling to use required or recommended print textbooks that are essential to their course success,” said Patricia Schroeder, AAP’s president and chief executive officer “The new AccessText Network will improve the way electronic versions of print textbooks are delivered to campus-based disability student service offices from publishers and streamline the permission process for scanning copies of print textbooks when publisher files are unavailable.”

AccessText Network, scheduled for beta launch this month, will ensure that institutions can more easily obtain information about publishers’ course materials, request alternative electronic text files and use more efficient acquisition and distribution channels, Lee told the regents.

“We are excited about working in conjunction with the disability community to guarantee AccessText becomes the conduit between the publishing world and post-secondary institutions’ disability programs nationwide,” he said. “Our goal is to make the college disability service professional’s job easier and, in the long run, help save institutions from the high cost of producing electronic textbooks for their students with disabilities.”

AccessText Network is being funded through donations from publishers Cengage Learning; CQ Press; Macmillan; McGraw-Hill Education; Pearson; Reed Elsevier Inc.; John Wiley & Sons; and W.W. Norton.

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