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March 29, 2010

Dear AHEAD members,

Many of you are using, have heard about, or are aware of the Access Text Network (ATN) and its work in providing publisher files for the purpose of creating accessible texts.  It is a venture of the American Association of Publishers (AAP) implemented through the Alternative Media Access Center at the University of Georgia.  This past year has been the Beta period.

The preliminary Beta period and free membership with ATN ends this June.  As such, institutions who seek to continue their participation in the ATN will need to sign new user agreements with the ATN and pay a modest fee. 

During the past several months, AHEAD has worked with ATN regarding its process and institutional needs/concerns, especially with regard to the User Agreement requirements.  The ATN was receptive to AHEAD's comments and feedback regarding the User Agreement, and made some adjustments that helped clarify terms of use and process relative to institutions, and the need to provide effective services to students.

As people assess the utility and potential use of the ATN and other resources, AHEAD is compelled to note certain important points for our members' consideration.

         ATN may be a viable short-term solution for a number of members.  Publisher files provided will likely need to be converted as they are not user-ready.

         AHEAD as a member of the Reading Rights Coalition (RRC) in combination with the American Association of Publishers (AAP) and the Author's Guild is working toward options that create equal access for all at the same time. (see http://www.readingrights.org/2009-advocacy-update)

         AHEAD, as noted in its previous position statement (see: http://ahead.org/resources/e-text/position-statement), continues to acknowledge the rights of institutions under the Chaffee Amendmentand the fair use doctrine, to create and provide accessible formats of instructional materials as an accommodation to students with disabilities.  Therefore, AHEAD advises members to seek advice of their own university counsel regarding any question as to whether your institution may be relinquishing rights it wishes to retain by signing the ATN User Agreement.

         The User Agreement allows ATN/Publishers to ask an institution to "provide documentation evidencing its compliance."  The issues of what documentation is expected or required, and who would have access to that documentation remain unclear.  AHEAD asserts that appropriate confidentiality and privacy of student records and/or documentation needs to be maintained.

         AHEAD will continue to focus on new ways to help institutions provide direct, immediate access (as opposed to converting texts).

In summary, consistent with philosophy and practice, AHEAD's involvement in the creation or improvement of any resource that may be beneficial in providing equity of opportunity to students with disabilities in postsecondary education does not constitute or imply any endorsement of that resource.  That said, AHEAD feels strongly that its members and member institutions should, in all instances,  enter into agreements that have been  reviewed and approved by institutional  legal counsel and signed by an institutionally authorized signatory.

AHEAD looks forward to continuing to provide you with updated information and resources as they become available.  If you have specific questions about this particular issue, please contact me at:  m.shuttic@okstate.edu


Mike Shuttic, President



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