Ensuring Access to Instructional Material for Students

The federal government instituted the National Instructional Materials Access Center (NIMAC) and created a standard file format (National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard [NIMAS]) as part of a solution for districts to obtain materials in formats that their students can use. Although NIMAC texts are not available to every student who is struggling with reading, the updated Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE) Web site NIMAS/NIMAC, provides the step-by-step instructions required of local districts on how to: work with textbook publishers to make file formats available for conversion; identify the student and necessary format type for the individual student; and provide contact information for the appropriate Accessible Media Producers (AMPs). Schools will need to set up an account in order to access NIMAS derived materials with the newly authorized users of Bookshare (http://www.bookshare.org – an online library of copyrighted content for people with qualifying print disabilities) and Learning Ally (www.learningally.org – a nonprofit organization that provides a library of accessible audiobooks using human narration for people who cannot effectively read standard print).

Printed textbooks and educational materials used in elementary and secondary schools must be made available in a timely manner, in formats (e.g. Braille, large print, audio, digital text) that can be used by all students in the classroom. There is a new Connecticut Accessible Instructional Materials (AIM) Web site at http://aim.serc.co/ that addresses the elements of AIM for trade books/novels, including the process for accessing the standard file format of NIMAS. The Web site is maintained by the State Education Resource Center. The site offers more information about the AIM decision-making process, explores frequently asked questions with resources, and lists active professional development (PD) and learning opportunities offered by agencies throughout Connecticut regarding AIM/NIMAS.

Once the material has been formatted into a version appropriate for the student, assistive technology (AT) is often the mechanism utilized to ensure appropriate access to the file format. The CSDE recently published AT Guidelines to enable school districts to make informed decisions about the AT considerations, implementation and evaluation for their students, factoring in administrative support and PD.