‘Timely Manner’ for Accessible Educational Materials (AEM)

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA) Section 300.172 addresses access to instructional and educational materials in a timely manner by individuals who are blind or have other print-related disabilities through the establishment of the National Instructional Materials Access Center (NIMAC) and the adoption of the National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard (NIMAS).

Connecticut has adopted the NIMAS standard, and in a recent AEM – Topic Brief defines timely manner as “all reasonable efforts will be made by the local education agency (LEA) to ensure that accessible educational materials (AEM) are provided to children with disabilities who need accessible formats of educational materials at the same time as other children receiving their educational materials”.

If a student is identified by the planning and placement team (PPT) as having a print-related disability (e.g., blindness, visual impairment, physical limitations and specific learning disability in reading), which impacts the student’s ability to access curriculum, then the PPT may determine, as the competent authority, that the student qualifies to receive AEM produced in specialized formats as delineated on the individualized education program (IEP) through an accessible media producer and/or the NIMAC.

A helpful AEM – Flowchart with AEM – Scenarios that indicate how to determine the need for AEM, and sources which may be acquired in order to allow the student access to AEM in a timely manner, are available on the Connecticut State Department of Education website under NIMAS/NIMAC (http://www.sde.ct.gov/sde/cwp/view.asp?a=2626&q=322684).

If you have questions related to AEM and the NIMAS/NIMAC process, please contact Thomas Boudreau, Bureau of Special Education, at 860-713-6925 or thomas.boudreau@ct.gov.




As districts order text books and other print instructional materials, the procurement process must include the enactment of a written contract with publishers of the materials to provide electronic files containing the contents of the print materials to the National Instructional Material Accessibility Center (NIMAC).  The publishers are required, on or before delivery of the print materials, to prepare and provide the print content using National Instructional Material Accessibility Standard (NIMAS) filesets, in order for the content to be stored in the NIMAC and produced or rendered into specialized formats (braille, large print, digital text or audio) as needed.  

Resource links are provided below that include: new suggested language for purchase orders/written contracts with NIMAC in order to access updated materials and links, creating accessible digital instructional learning materials, and Frequently Ask Questions about NIMAS/NIMAC.

NEW Purchase Order Language

Digital Technology

Frequently Asked Questions about NIMAS and NIMAC


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.


Individuals with print-based disabilities (e.g., vision impairments, physical disabilities, or learning disabilities) often encounter multiple challenges accessing the general education curriculum.  The National Instructional Materials Accessibility Center (NIMAC) and National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard (NIMAS) were developed as part of the solution to “help increase the availability and timely delivery of print instructional materials in accessible formats to blind students or other students with print disabilities in elementary and secondary schools” (explained in Appendix C of Part 300 of the Individuals with Disability Education Act – IDEA).

Printed textbooks, workbooks and other core printed materials used in elementary and secondary schools need to be available in classrooms in a manner that is accessible to students with disabilities.  In Connecticut, the State Department of Education (CSDE) strongly suggests that each school district sign on to the NIMAC/NIMAS system for qualifying students they have or will potentially have enrolled and receiving a public education.

Ensuring accessible print materials begins when the school district contracts with publishers to order textbooks.  It becomes important to include the following language in the contract that will require the textbook publishing companies to make a NIMAS file set available to the NIMAC for each textbook ordered.

By agreeing to deliver the materials marked with “NIMAS” on this contract or purchase order, the publisher agrees to prepare and submit, on or before __/__/__, a NIMAS file set to the NIMAC that complies with the terms and procedures set forth by the NIMAC. Should the vendor be a distributor of the materials and not the publisher, the distributor agrees to immediately notify the publisher of its obligation to submit NIMAS file sets of the purchased products to the NIMAC. The files will be used for the production of alternative formats, as permitted under the law for students with print disabilities.

This is page __ of __ of this contract or purchase order.

When a qualifying student is identified, a step by step explanation for a district representative to navigate the process can be accessed on the State Department of Education website at http://www.sde.ct.gov/sde/cwp/view.asp?a=2626&q=322684.

You may view further information on the NIMAS/NIMAC system along with Frequently Asked Questions at http://aim.cast.org/learn/policy/federal/faq.  Information regarding the Office of Special Education Programs’ (OSEP) interpretation of materials covered under NIMAS may also be reviewed at www.ctnimas.org.

You Can Search Topics from Past Bureau Bulletins, Bureau Blogs and Bureau Updates!

The Bureau of Special Education currently offers several resources to assist you in searching for topics discussed in past Bureau Bulletin articles, Bureau Blogs and Bureau Updates.

For topics appearing in articles from Fall 2011 through the present, please use the search feature located at the top of the current Bureau Bulletin home page: https://ctspecialednews.org/

For topics appearing in articles from Spring 2010 through Fall 2011, please use the following directory which will bring you to the edition of the bulletin in which an article with your topic appears: Bureau Bulletin Article Directory Spring 2010-Fall 2011

For topics in articles from Summer 2008 through Spring 2010, please use the following directory which, again, will bring you to the edition of the bulletin in which an article with your topic appears: Bureau Bulletin Article Directory Summer 2008-Spring 2010

You may also access past editions of Bureau Blogs and Bureau Updates from September 1996 up to Summer 2008 through the Bureau of Special Education Web page: http://www.sde.ct.gov/sde/cwp/view.asp?a=2678&q=320720

It is our hope to bring each of these resources together under one easily searchable index in the future. In the meantime, we hope these resources will assist you in your research. For questions related to this article, please contact Jay Brown at 860-713-6918 or jay.brown@ct.gov.

IDEA Program/Fiscal Compliance Review

The IDEA Program/Fiscal Compliance Review was formulated in 2008 as the Connecticut State Department of Education was anticipating an onsite compliance review by the federal Office of Special Education (OSEP) programs.  This new desk audit was initiated in 2009 when the Bureau of Special Education (BSE) piloted this new program with three very distinct school districts (i.e. urban, suburban and a regional rural).

Desiring more effective state oversight of regulation compliance, the Bureau instituted this desk audit to be completed by the local school districts and submitted to the Bureau of Special Education with extensive documentation.  The specific areas identified in the IDEA Program/Fiscal Compliance Review included:

  • Property/Equipment/Supplies – ensuring federal funds are spent appropriately on instructional/educational uses and/or assistive technology.  In addition, a district labeling and tracking system are in place so the district is aware of the status of this piece of property/equipment.
  • Supplanting – ensuring that the district is not using federal funds to supplant local funds.
  • Parentally Placed Private School Special Education Students – ensuring that appropriate policies and procedures are in place guaranteeing these students a proportionate share of IDEA funds.  A review of the district’s calculations      determining proportionate share is also required.
  • National Instructional Materials Assessability Standard (NIMAC) – ensuring that the district complies with the NIMAC by requiring publishers of academic textbooks to adapt their products to include electronic files of instructional print materials.
  • Coordinated Early Intervening Services (CEIS) – ensuring that district      procedures are in place for the appropriate use of federal funds and effective tracking systems are used for students whose pre-referral strategies have been funded with federal funds.
  • Charter Schools – ensuring that procedures are in place for the equitable distribution of IDEA funds for the education of students with disabilities who attend charter schools.
  • Excess Costs Calculations – ensures that districts abide by the federal requirement for adequate local funding of educational and related services to students with disabilities.
  • Statewide and district wide assessments – ensuring that districts have policies and procedures in place for compliance in this area.

During the 2009-10 school year, three school districts volunteered to pilot the desk audit.  Thereafter, for the next three school years, all of the state’s educational districts have been assigned to participate in this compliance review.  The schedule is as follows:

  1. School Year 2010-11– LEAs in the CREC and EASTCONN catchment areas
  2. School Year 2011-12– LEAs in the ACES and Ed Connection catchment areas
  3. School Year 2012-13– LEAs in the CES and LEARN catchment areas

The school districts who have completed the IDEA Program/Fiscal Compliance Review have noted that their staff members are very pleased with the policies and procedures that have been put in place to ensure compliance with IDEA.  Staff from the BSE have presented this compliance review at national conferences and it was well received by both federal, state and local school officials.