New bill improves access to virtual learning for students with disabilities

Politics

CHICAGO — A new state law promises to improve accessibility for disabled students when it comes to digital learning platforms.

The newly signed legislation grants school districts and digital vendors across the state a year to improve accessibility for disabled students.   

Tom Loftus, a spokesman for the visually-impaired community, describes the urgent challenge for Illinois educators and parents to provide disabled students a brighter future.  

“How do you get someone that can’t see interested in reading and learning if everything is a struggle?” he said.

According to Loftus, 70% of the visually impaired are “unemployed or underemployed.” 

But new state law, House Bill 26, is designed to equal the playing field. 

On Monday, Governor JB Pritzker announced that every public and private K-12 school in Illinois must ensure its online communication needs the leading standard for web content accessibility by next August.   

Pritzker and state legislators celebrated what many say is a watershed moment.  

 “House Bill 26 makes Illinois a leader in this arena of educational access for people with disabilities,” Illinois State Representative Theresa Mah said, who represents Bridgeport in the state’s 2nd district.

Added state representative Dr. Cristina Pacione-Zayas: “Whether that means that we need modifications because there are auditory learning disabilities, visual learning disabilities, cognitive.” 

Third-party contractors working for school districts will be required to dismantle barriers to equal access for all.   

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