Advances in technology are allowing greater access to features which improve readability of text such as text-to-speech, highlighting, and adjustable fonts. However, this does not negate the school’s responsibility for providing textbooks, assigned novels, and other curricular materials in accessible formats. Educators must take care to ensure that the burden of making materials accessible (i.e. scanning materials to be read with an app or extension) is not placed on the student. Accessible Educational Materials (AEM) have the potential to greatly impact the educational progress and outcomes for students with print disabilities. Access to specialized formats is improving, thanks to increased awareness of the need, and intensified focus by state and local education agencies on requiring publishers to submit NIMAS files to the NIMAC. Teachers, school officials, parents, and advocates can help facilitate the use of specialized formats by:
- Consistently using a decision-making process during the development of IEPs to determine if students need AEM.
- Learning about the process for obtaining materials from the NIMAC, accessible media producers (AMPs) and other sources.
- Communicating with IEP teams and school administrators about accessible materials and available supports that are often available to eligible students free of charge.
- Collaborating with local and state education agencies to urge publishers to offer accessible versions of textbooks for purchase.
- Utilizing the principals of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) for curriculum development that give all individuals equal opportunities to learn with flexible approaches that can be customized and adjusted for individual needs.
Additional AEM Resources
- National Center on Accessible Educational Materials: http://aem.cast.org
- National Instructional Materials Access Center: http://www.nimac.us
- U.S. Department of Education, IDEA Part B:
- Accessible Instructional Materials Technical Guide for Families and Advocates, National Center on Accessible Instructional Materials at CAST:
- Universal Design for Learning (UDL) resources