Governor expected to sign legislation on textbook formats
MADISON Gov. Scott Walker is expected to sign legislation in the next two weeks that will make it easier for blind and visually impaired students to get educational textbooks in formats they can use.
The Wisconsin Senate unanimously approved a textbook bill Wednesday. It is the companion to a bill authored by Rep. Joe Knilans, R-Janesville, that has already passed in the Assembly.
The bills would require publishers to provide and pay for converted textbooks promptly. A similar requirement has been in place for elementary, middle and high schools, and the new legislation would extend the requirement to Wisconsin colleges, universities and technical colleges.
“In the past, some blind and visually impaired students have fallen behind the rest of the class while they were waiting for their textbooks to arrive,” Knilans said in a news release.
Similar legislation was introduced in prior sessions but never made it out of committee.
“A broad bipartisan and inclusive effort between legislators, publishers, advocates, the University of Wisconsin system and the vocational system helped to win approval,” he said. “The reason I feel so strongly about this bill is because the Wisconsin School for the Blind and Visually Impaired is located in my hometown, Janesville.
“I grew up with that school in my backyard, and it is very special to me.”
Knilans said the bill would help students with dyslexia and other learning disabilities, and military veterans have been especially supportive of the legislation.
He said that 18 percent of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan who have sustained injuries from roadside bombings are blind or visually impaired.
“They use the GI Bill to prepare themselves for new careers,” Knilans said. “We asked our veterans to defend us. When they come back, we must not throw additional roadblocks in their way.”