About the AEM Center
For learners with sensory, physical, cognitive, or learning differences and their teachers, accessible educational materials (AEM) may open doors to teaching and learning that ordinary print-based materials have closed. Accessible educational materials or AEM are specialized formats of curricular content that can be used by and with students who are unable to read or use standard print materials. Specialized formats include braille, audio, large print, and digital text. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) includes a requirement that schools provide AEM in a timely manner to K–12 students who need them for participation and achievement.
In addition, the AEM Center provides support for the use of AEM in early learning, higher education, and workplace settings and has extended its reach to include educational materials that are first developed and distributed in digital formats. The AEM Center will also provide support for the development, selection, and use of accessible technologies.
AEM Center Leadership
- Principal Investigator: Jose Blackorby, CAST
- Director: Cynthia Curry, CAST
- OSEP Project Officer: Tara Courchaine, Ed.D.
AEM Center Products and Services
The AEM Center serves as a resource for stakeholders, including state- and district-level educators, parents, students, publishers, conversion houses, accessible media producers, and others interested in learning more about AEM and implementing AEM and NIMAS. Our services and activities include the following:
- Developing and sustaining a readily available base of information and tools to build the capacity of stakeholders to enhance both the effective provision and use of high quality AEM.
- Providing stakeholders with expert technical assistance and customized "just-in-time" consultation on major issues relevant to the timely provision and use of AEM.
- Hosting a Community of Practice (COP) that offers a functional connection between State Education Agency Coordinators and AEM Center staff to ensure state and local level implementation and to improve the outcomes of students with disabilities through the timely provision and use of AEM.
- Collaborating with OSEP, AEM-related OSEP-funded projects work with technical assistance and dissemination center networks, family centers, and post-secondary AEM providers to build capacity for and raise awareness about the timely provision and use of AEM to improve outcomes for learners with print-related disabilities.
- Providing additional services and products related to Early Learning, Higher Education, and Workforce Development to be announced in the near future.
The AEM Center, with the support of national experts, also maintains and advances the NIMAS Technical Specification used by educational publishers to prepare filesets that are deposited in the National Instructional Materials Accessibility Center (NIMAC) at the American Printing House for the Blind (APH). The Center also promotes the commercial and OER development of accessible EPUB3 so that the markets may play a more significant role in the timely provision of accessible educational materials to learners.
Accessible Educational Materials (AEM)
Print- and technology-based educational materials designed to be usable across the widest range of individual variability.View in glossary
Print Instructional Materials
Printed materials written and published for use in elementary and secondary school instruction, required by a SEA or LEA for use by students in classroom.View in glossary
Digital form or representation of a sound which may be used for non-visual access to text and images.View in glossary
Published material retrieved and read via a computer.View in glossary
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
Federal law governing rights of children with disabilities to receive free and appropriate public education in least restrictive environment.View in glossary
Technology that can be used by people with a wide range of abilities and disabilities. Incorporates the principles of universal design.View in glossary
CAST (Center for Applied Special Technology)
Non-profit organization that works to expand learning opportunities for all individuals through research and development.View in glossary
Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP)
Provides leadership and financial support to assist states and local districts in improving results for children and youth with disabilities.View in glossary
Accessible Media Producers (AMPs)
Produced specialized formats of instructional materials for use by blind or other persons with print disabilities.View in glossary
National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard (NIMAS)
A technical standard used to produce XML-based source files for print-based educational materials.View in glossary
Distribution and interchange format standard for digital publications and documents.View in glossary
AEM Center Partner
The State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit membership association launched by state education agency leaders in 2001 to serve, support and represent their emerging interests and needs with respect to the use of technology for teaching, learning, and school operations. Our current work is guided by a strategic plan, Leading, Inspiring and Empowering: The 2013-16 SETDA Strategic Plan, adopted by the SETDA Board of Directors in October 2012 after extensive consultation with the membership. See the SETDA website for more information.
Equipment or system where principal function is creation, conversion, duplication, control, display, interchange, transmission, reception, or broadcast of data.View in glossary
AEM Center Advisory Committee
In order to receive guidance pertaining to accessible educational materials and technologies from experts in the field, the AEM Center has established an Advisory Committee to help guide the creation of resources, products and services that are impactful and usable across a variety of stakeholder settings. Advisory Committee members represent a range of Early Learning, K-12 and Postsecondary education, and Workforce Development constituents. They bring expertise in the development and maintenance of technical specifications, in the design and implementation of technical assistance, and on the relationship of educational materials and technologies to learning outcomes.
Advisory Committee Members
Lead, Michigan Department of Education, State Systemic Improvement Plan
Executive Director, National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE)
Director of Global Policy, Office of Corporate Affairs, Pearson Education
Director, Educational Leadership & Research, State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA)
Director of the Simon Technology Center, PACER Center; MN DEC Member at Large; Director, Technology Improves Kids’ Educational Success (TIKES) early childhood and assistive technology project
Executive Co-Director – National Projects, SPAN; Director, Center for Parent Information and Resources; Director, National RAISE TA Center
Senior Education Program Manager, Global Literacy Program, Benetech
Chief Innovations Officer, DAISY Consortium; Senior Officer, Accessible Technology Learning Ally; President, International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF); Member of the National Museum and Library Services Board (IMLS); Chair Steering Council Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI), a division of the W3C
Owner, Inclusive Technology Solutions, LLC; Certified Assistive Technology Professional (ATP); Adjunct Professor, Felician College & Ramapo College of NJ
Founder Member of Texthelp Systems Ltd. and Chief Technical Officer; Steering Committee Member, Accessibility Interoperability Alliance (AIA), Architecture Committee of the Global Public Inclusive Infrastructure (GPII)
Director of the Delaware AIM Center, Center for Disabilities Studies, University of Delaware; Associate professor in the School of Education, University of Delaware
Senior Director, Universal Design & Accessible Technologies, Technology-enhanced Learning and Online Strategies (TLOS), Virginia Tech
Interim Director, AMAC Research Center; Director of Tools for Life, Georgia’s Assistive Technology Act Program; the Pass It On Center; and the National Assistive Technology Reuse Technical Assistance and Coordination Center
Executive Director, Federation for Children with Special Needs
Assistive Technology Entrepreneur and Advocate
President, Don Johnston Incorporated; Board of Directors, Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA)
Tara Courchaine, Ed.D.
Education Program Specialist, Office of Special Education Programs, U.S. Department of Education; Project Officer, AEM Center
Director, AEM Center
Technical Director, AEM Center
Associate Professor, Lynch School of Education, Boston College; AEM Center Low Incidence Expert
Sam Catherine Johnston
Senior Researcher, AEM Center
Technical Assistance Specialist, AEM Center
Technical Assistance Specialist, AEM Center
Co-Director Emeritus, AEM Center
Operations Coordinator, AEM Center
National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE)
Formed to help state education agencies support specially designed instruction and services for children and youth with disabilities.View in glossary
National Instructional Materials Access Center (NIMAC)
Central national repository established at American Printing House for the Blind to store, validate, maintain and disseminate NIMAS filesets.View in glossary
American Printing House for the Blind (APH)
Largest non-profit organization creating products and services for people who are visually impaired.View in glossary
Access for all people, including people with disabilities, to web environments.View in glossary
One or more pieces of descriptive information about data.View in glossary
Established the International Standard for the production, exchange, and use of Digital Talking Books.View in glossary
International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF)
Trade and standards organization dedicated to development and promotion of electronic publishing.View in glossary
W3C (World Wide Web Consortium)
Promotes evolution and ensures interoperability of the World Wide Web, producing specifications and reference software for free use around the world.View in glossary
Accessible Instructional Materials (AIM)
Print-based educational materials converted into specialized formats, related to the requirements of the IDEA statute.View in glossary
Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA)
Non-profit membership organization of manufacturers, sellers, and providers of technology-based assistive devices and services.View in glossary