What IS AEM?
Accessible educational materials, or AEM, are print- and technology-based educational materials, including printed and electronic textbooks and related core materials that are designed or converted in a way that makes them usable across the widest range of student variability regardless of format (print, digital, graphical, audio, video) ( National Center on Accessible Educational Materials).
Several laws govern the use of AEM:
- The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) focuses on accessible formats of print instructional material in the following formats: Braille, Large Print, Audio Text & Digital Text.
- Two federal civil rights acts: Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Tittle II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Both prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability and speak to the obligation of public schools to provide accessible educational materials to students with disabilities who need them.
How Do Districts Determine Who Needs AEM?
School districts must provide instructional materials in accessible formats to children who need it, including those who are not blind or print disabled.
- AEM Navigator: The AEM Navigator is a process facilitator that guides the work of a collaborative team as they work through the AEM-related needs of individual students. It is not a screening or diagnostic tool. The Navigator consists of a series of guiding questions to assist teams with decision-making about need, selection, acquisition, and use of accessible educational materials. Learning supports for completing each decision-making step are available throughout.
- Protocol for Accommodations in Reading (PAR): The PAR manual helps you determine the most suitable reading accommodations for specific students by assessing their individual needs. Anyone on the IEP team can administer PAR to systematize how reading accommodations are recommended on a student level or across the school district.
When Do Your Students Need AIM Materials?
Specialized Formats identified in IDEA include Braille and Tactile Graphics, Audio, Digital Text and Large Print. Timely manner is defined in Oregon as “at the same time materials are available for students who do not need materials in alternate formats” (OAR 581-22-1640).
How does House Bill (HB) 2426 / ORS 343.223 relate to AEM?:
There have been many changes as to how materials are presented to all students at the classroom level. Traditional print materials are used less and less, while online resources for instruction are increasingly used in the classroom. HB 2426 addresses this topic by requiring specific training for school staff on how to support students with print disabilities (This bill amends ORS 343.22):
School districts shall ensure that school administrators and school personnel whose duties may require them to assist a student with a print disability, as defined in ORS 337.511, receive annual professional development related to using online resources that enable students with print disabilities to receive instruction materials free of charge. Section 4. A school district shall ensure that school administrators and school personnel who are required to receive training as provided by ORS 343.223, as amended by section 3 of this 2013 Act, first receive training by October 1, 2014.
Who Pays for AEM For Students Who Need It?
Students are eligible to receive accessible PRINT materials from the NIMAC (definition below) free of charge if they meet the criteria (the following is taken from Oregon’s Authorized User: Bookshare.org):
- Visual Impairments: A person who is blind or has low vision and who is unable to read standard print qualifies as long as a competent authority confirms that the person is legally blind. Legal blindness is a standard built into the law. Competent Authority: family doc-tor; ophthalmologist; optometrist; teacher of the visually impaired; special education teacher; National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, or similar government body outside the U.S.
- Physical Disabilities: A person with a physical disability who is unable to read standard print qualifies as long as a competent authority confirms that the physical disability significantly interferes with reading. Competent Authority: family doctor or other medical professional; physical therapist; resource specialist; special education teacher
- Learning Disabilities: A person with a learning disability qualifies as long as a competent authority confirms that the learning disability significantly interferes with reading.
Competent Authority: neurologist: family doctor; psychiatrist; learning disability specialist; special education teacher; school psychologist; clinical psychologist with a background in learning disabilities.
- Note: People with disabilities such as: autism, intellectual disabilities, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), hearing loss and people whose first language is not English DO NOT QUALIFY based on these criteria alone. However, it is quite possible that a person with one or more of these disabilities could still qualify for the NIMAC because of an accompanying print disability. For example, a person who is both deaf and blind, or who has ADHD and dyslexia, could qualify.
What is the NIMAC?
The NIMAC is a federally-funded, national electronic file repository that makes National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard (NIMAS) files available for the production of core print instructional materials in specialized formats. Created under IDEA 2004, the NIMAC receives source files in NIMAS format from textbook publishers, and makes these files available for download to Authorized Users in the United States and its territories through an online database. Once downloaded, files can be used to create a variety of specialized formats, such as braille, audio, or digital text, on behalf of qualifying blind, visually-impaired or print-disabled students in elementary or secondary school.
Who Are Oregon’s Authorized User(s) & Accessible Media Producer(s)?
An Authorized User (AU) or Authorized Media Producer (AMP) are the coordinating, authorized entities which are the sole “people” who can download the NIMAS source files from the NIMAC. These entities alter the NIMAS source files to make them “student-ready” in accessible formats such as braille, audio, large print, and digital text.
- Bookshare: On-line library of accessible digital books available to individuals with visual impairments, physical disabilities, and learning disabilities.
- Learning Ally: Learning Ally's materials are for all people who cannot effectively read standard print because of a visual, perceptual, or other physical disability for Oregon.
- American Printing House for the Blind: Provides specialized materials, products, and services needed for education and life.
Copyright Law: Chafee Amendment (1996)
- Amendment allowing “authorized entities to reproduce or distribute copies or phonorecords of previously published nondramatic literary works in specialized format exclusively for use by blind or others persons with disabilities.”